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On  October  20,  1819,  a  group  of  public-spirited  Rhode  Island  citizens  met  to  formulate 
plans  for  the  establishment  in  Providence  of  a  bank  which,  acting  as  a  community  servant, 
would  afford  people  a  place  for  the  safe-keeping  of  their  savings  with  the  additional  advan¬ 
tage  of  accumulating  interest.  The  above  illustration  depicts  this  first  meeting  which 
resulted  in  the  founding  of  the  Providence  Institution  for  Savings.  The  figures  in  the 
picture  (eight  of  which  are  reproductions  from  portraits)  represent  the  following  illus¬ 
trious  gentlemen:  seated  left  to  right,  Zechariah  Allen,  Thomas  L.  Halsey,  James  Burrill, 
Jr.,  Dexter  Thurber,  Thomas  P.  Ives  (First  President),  Samuel  G.  Arnold,  Nicholas 
Brown;  standing  in  background,  Josiah  Whitaker,  Charles  Dyer,  John  Perrin,  James 
Petty,  Philip  Martin,  Obadiah  Brown;  standing  in  foreground,  Benjamin  Aborn,  William 
Blodget,  William  Wilkinson. 






“The  Rhode  Island  Historian” 


Providence  Institution  for  Savings 




Olneyville  Square 



Westminster  and  Washington  Streets 

Afttn  County 



(vL>~  26  CUSTOM  HOUSE  ST  -<3j 
- - “D  PROVIDENCE  RlCT - - 

Copyright  1931  Providence  Institution  for  Savings 



Early  in  the  year  1927  “The  Old  Stone  Bank”  initiated  a 
series  of  newspaper  advertisements  dealing  with  historical 
events  and  the  glorious  traditions  which  have  made  the 
smallest  State  in  the  Union  one  of  the  richest  in  historical 
background.  Events  in  Rhode  Island  history  were  featured 
in  illustration  and  description,  and  soon  persons  of  all  ages 
came  to  appreciate  that  these  words  and  pictures  were  well 
worth  their  attention. 

It  was  suggested  that  these  incidents  he  written  about 
more  fully,  the  facts  carefully  assembled,  and  presented  on 
the  radio  as  a  regular  weekly  feature.  Thus  was  conceived 
an  unique  character,  “The  Rhode  Island  Historian,”  who, 
from  September  to  June,  relates  to  his  unseen  audiences 
stories  about  interesting  figures,  historic  events  and  traditions 
concerning  which  facts  have  been  obtained  from  such 
sources  as  early  histories,  old  documents,  clippings,  records 
and  tracts. 

These  radio  talks  have  been  printed  and  the  mailing  list 
of  those  who  have  written  requesting  copies  of  the  booklets 
includes  the  names  of  thousands  who  have  heard  the 
familiar  voice  of  “The  Rhode  Island  Historian.”  The  edu¬ 
cational  and  historical  value  of  these  sketches  has  so 
appealed  to  those  interested  in  Rhode  Island  history  that 
“The  Old  Stone  Bank”  now  presents  this  second  volume  of 
the  weekly  historical  recitals. 

Uninteresting  descriptions,  unimportant  dates  and  dry 
statistics  have  been  eliminated  in  the  preparation  of  this 
brief  review  of  important  events  and  facts,  arranged,  as 
nearly  as  possible,  in  chronological  order.  To  those  who 
love  their  native  or  adopted  State,  “The  Old  Stone  Bank” 
presents  these  added  chapters  in  that  never  ending  narrative 
of  romance,  bravery,  adventure,  ambition  and  achievement — 
Rhode  Island  History. 



Rhode  Island  History . 11 

Earliest  Rhode  Island  Visitors . 13 

Giovanni  Verazzano . 14 

A  Predecessor  of  Roger  Williams  . . 16 

Indian  Currency . 18 

Anne  Hutchinson . 20 

Mary  Dyer,  A  Quaker  Martyr . 22 

Cocumcussoc . 25 

Samuel  Gorton . 27 

Captain  Benjamin  Church . 29 

Hazards  of  Rhode  Island . 31 

Indian  Traits  and  Customs . 34 

Builders  of  Pawtucket . 36 

An  Unsolved  Murder . 38 

King  Philip . 40 

The  Queen’s  Fort . 42 

Original  Proprietors  of  Bristol . 44 

History  of  Lighting  in  Providence . 46 

Huguenots  in  Rhode  Island . 48 

Rhode  Island  Ferries . 50 

The  “Dr.  Johnson”  of  Narragansett . 52 

A  Gentleman  of  Newport . 54 

Fish  and  Fisheries  of  Rhode  Island . 57 

Hannah  Robinson . 59 

A  Terrible  Man  of  War . 62 

A  Great  Colonial  Architect . 64 

Sheriff  Robinson . 66 

On  the  Tower  Hill  Road . 69 

The  First  Baptist  Meeting  House . 71 

“P’int,  Judy,  P’int” . 74 

Christmas  in  Narragansett 
Brown  and  Ives  . 

A  Yankee  From  Cranston  . 

Old  Rhode  Island  Prisons 

A  Colonial  Coquette 

Samuel  Casey,  Silversmith 

A  Remarkable  Journey 

Old  Tavern  and  Stagecoach  Days  . 

The  Kentish  Guards 

The  Bombardment  of  Bristol  . 

East  Greenwich  Pottery 
At  the  Point  of  the  Candlestick 

Silas  Talbot  . 

The  Old  Stone  Chimney  House 
The  Splendid  Mansion 
The  French  Fleet  . 

Christmas  in  1780  . 

A  Newport  Landmark 
Belles  of  Colonial  Newport  . 

The  Old  Market  House 
A  Mariner’s  Romance 
Cuddymonk’s  “Moonack” 

Captain  John  DeWolf 

The  Clippers . 

Odd  Characters  of  Old  Narraganset 
A  Rhode  Island  Mormon  . 

Thomas  Wilson  Dorr 

Down  the  Bay . 

The  Passing  of  Lincoln 
Builders  of  the  Cup  Defenders 


































IT  IS  characteristic  of  American  initiative  that  actual  savings  banking  was  first 
undertaken  in  the  United  States,  although  to  Europe — and  more  particularly  to 
Switzerland — belongs  the  distinction  of  inspiring  the  establishment  of  such  institutions. 

In  1816  James  Savage  succeeded  in  persuading  the  Massachusetts  Legislature  to 
allow  his  bank  to  incorporate  as  a  mutual  savings  society.  At  that  time  the  financial 
situation  in  this  new  country  was  extremely  chaotic,  but  order  began  to  evolve  out  of 
confusion  soon  after  the  establishment  of  the  Second  Bank  of  the  United  States  in  1816. 

Although  the  first  move  to  establish  a  mutual  bank  in  a  neighboring  State  had  been 
undertaken  earlier,  it  was  not  until  1819,  when  financial  tension  was  somewhat  relieved, 
that  a  group  of  public-spirited  Rhode  Island  citizens,  believing  that  the  proper  time 
had  arrived,  met  in  October  of  that  year  to  formulate  plans  for  the  establishment  in 
Providence  of  a  bank  which,  acting  as  a  community  servant,  would  afford  the  people 
in  this  locality  a  place  for  the  safe  keeping  of  their  savings  with  the  additional  advan¬ 
tage  of  accumulating  interest.  Accordingly,  in  November,  1819,  the  first  savings 
bank  in  Providence  commenced  business  under  the  name  of  the  Providence  Institution 
for  Savings. 

Among  the  founders  were  many  of  those  whose  names  are  listed  in  Providence 
history  as  men  honored  for  their  accomplishments  in  the  interest  of  public  service. 
The  following  officers:  Thomas  P.  Ives,  First  President;  Thomas  L.  Halsey,  First 
Vice  President;  Obadiah  Brown,  Second  Vice  President;  James  Burrill,  Jr.,  Third 
Vice  President;  and  Trustees  Nicholas  Brown,  Philip  Martin,  William  Wilkinson, 
John  Perrin,  Benjamin  Aborn,  James  Petty,  Samuel  G.  Arnold,  William  Blodget, 
Charles  Dyer,  Zechariah  Allen,  Josiah  Whitaker,  and  Dexter  Thurber,  were  held  in 
the  highest  respect  and  regard  throughout  the  city  as  men  of  character  and  public 
spirit.  The  first  meeting  of  this  Board  was  held  at  the  office  of  the  Washington  Insur¬ 
ance  Company  November  4,  1819,  and  the  doors  of  the  bank  opened  November  20th. 

Many  of  the  founders  and  officers  of  the  Institution  were  interested  in  shipping  and 
trading.  They  built  and  owned  ships  which  sailed  on  every  sea,  and  traded  in  every 
port.  There  are  few  names  associated  with  the  maritime  interests  of  Providence  but 
may  be  found  on  the  list  of  the  founders  of  “The  Old  Stone  Bank”  and  their  descend¬ 
ants.  Position  and  wealth  had  already  been  attained  by  them,  and  it  is  obvious  that 
this  mutual  savings  bank  was  established  because  of  a  sense  of  altruism,  and  not  for 
the  purpose  of  self  gain.  Their  high  ideals  are  perhaps  best  expressed  in  a  statement 
made  at  the  time  of  incorporation.  In  part  it  is  as  follows: 

“.  .  .  .  Many  frugal  and  industrious  persons  have  laid  by  small  sums  which 
they  intended  as  a  relief  in  sickness,  or  in  old  age;  but  from  the  failure  or 
death  of  those  in  whose  hands  they  placed  it,  they  have  lost  the  whole,  or  if 
they  have  received  it  again,  it  has  been  without  interest.  In  this  institution 

such  persons  will  find  a  safe  place  of  deposit,  and  have  the  satisfaction  to 
know  that  it  is  constantly  increasing." 

At  first  “The  Old  Stone  Bank”  received  deposits  on  but  one  day  each  week.  This  was 
Saturday,  or  pay  day,  when  the  bank  was  open  from  12:30  until  2:00  P.  M.  As  the 
bank  proved  its  value  to  the  community,  it  was  gradually  obliged  to  keep  regular  hours 
for  the  convenience  of  depositors,  and  by  1842  the  resources  of  some  2100  depositors 
had  grown  to  $300,000.  Forty  years  later,  the  number  had  increased  to  nearly  28,000, 
and  the  deposits  to  more  than  $11,000,000. 

The  old  “Providence  Bank”  (a  national  bank  incorporated  in  1791)  was,  in  a  way, 
the  parent  of  this  mutual  institution,  for  it  was  on  its  lower  floor  that  the  savings  bank 
initiated  actual  operations. 

A  constantly  growing  volume  of  business  influenced  the  erection,  in  1854,  of  a 
building  for  the  exclusive  purposes  of  the  bank  at  86  South  Main  Street,  and  further 
expansion  led  to  the  erection,  in  1898,  of  the  present  building,  now  serving  as  the 
main  office. 

In  1925,  a  branch  was  opened  in  quarters  at  186  Washington  Street,  which  so 
well  justified  its  inception  that  four  years  later  a  modern  banking  building  was  erected 
on  Empire  and  Aborn  Streets,  in  celebration  of  the  110th  Anniversary  of  the  founding 
of  this  Institution. 

In  1927  a  second  branch  office  was  established  in  Olneyville,  affording  to  the  citizens 
of  that  industrious  and  progressive  community  mutual  savings  bank  facilities.  The  busi¬ 
ness  of  the  bank  is  carried  on  in  a  building  of  modern  construction  and  design, 
especially  equipped  for  the  exclusive  needs  of  depositors  in  the  Olneyville  section. 

Well  into  the  second  century  of  its  existence,  the  resources  of  this  mutual  savings 
bank  have  grown,  by  the  steady  accumulations  of  thrifty  persons,  to  figures  far  beyond 
the  imagination  of  its  founders.  Always  a  ready  aid  to  those  it  serves,  both  in  times  of 
prosperity  and  distress,  this  Institution  has  endeavored  to  carry  out  the  ideals  with 
which  it  was  founded. 

With  a  record  of  economic  and  social  service  to  these  Providence  Plantations,  and 
with  even  greater  facilities  for  service  in  the  future,  the  Providence  Institution  for 
Savings,  popularly  known  as  “The  Old  Stone  Bank,”  will  continue  to  encourage  habits 
of  economy  among  those  for  whose  benefit  it  was  established  so  many  years  ago. 


IT  is  a  fact  that  information  and  literature 
about  the  history  of  Rhode  Island  are  in 
constant  demand  in  every  section  of  the 
country.  Writers  of  historical  novels,  stu¬ 
dents  of  history,  newspaper  men,  lovers  of 
the  ancient  and  antique,  all  look  upon  the 
annals  of  this  tiny  State  as  a  fertile  field  for 
research,  study  and  entertainment.  This  is 
true  partly  because  in  Rhode  Island  and 
communities  nearby  began  the  history  of  the 
nation.  It  was  here  that  the  bold  Vikings 
first  tasted  the  sweet  juices  of  luscious 
fruits;  it  was  here  that  the  exiled  Roger 
Williams  found  a  true  haven  of  friendship 
where  men  might  live  in  peace  and  com¬ 
fort  apart  from  the  vicious  tongues  of  sel¬ 
fish  and  narrow-minded  neighbors;  from 
this  land  sailed  daring  adventurers  who  laid 
the  foundations  of  commerce  and  interna¬ 
tional  good-will;  from  these  pleasant  farms 
and  peaceful  hamlets  have  gone  countless 
heroes  of  war  and  peace;  art,  science,  in¬ 
dustry  and  law  have  counted  among  their 
outstanding  leaders,  men  and  women  who 
boasted  of  their  Rhode  Island  origin. 

But,  beyond  that,  it  is  inherent  in  man  to 
love  history,  particularly  the  true  history 
of  his  immediate  surroundings.  History  is 
a  never-ending  panorama  of  men,  women, 
and  children  whose  destinies  are  shaped 
by  circumstances,  ambitions  and  emotions 
common  to  us  all.  We  are  all  makers  of 
history  and  children  of  history.  Though  we 
do  not  worship  our  ancestors  as  do  the  ori¬ 
entals,  yet  decisions  of  the  present  are  guid¬ 
ed  by  the  experiences  of  our  predecessors. 
We  are  forever  on  the  ascent  looking  back¬ 
ward  at  the  rungs  of  the  ladder  upon  which 
we  mounted  and  upward  to  the  bright  fields 
of  the  future. 

Crumbling  castles,  grass-covered  ram¬ 
parts,  andirons,  Indian  arrow-heads,  old 
coins,  gruesome  battles  are  some  of  the 
countless  stage-props  that  help  build  the 
setting  for  the  play  whose  scenes  live  only 
on  the  pages  of  history,  and  in  the  lively 
imaginations  of  all  of  us  who  live,  love  and 

Furthermore,  the  study  of  history  is  a 

study  in  contrasts.  We  all  like  to  compare 
men  and  events  of  centuries  gone  by  with 
persons  and  affairs  as  we  know  them  today. 
We  all  enjoy  reading  copies  of  newspapers 
published  a  century  ago;  the  craze  for  an¬ 
tiques  is  growing,  interest  in  genealogy  is 
certainly  not  decreasing.  Residents  of  this 
historic  old  city  and  State  walk  and  live 
’mid  the  time-honored  landmarks  of  other 
ages.  Colonial  mansions,  ancient  taverns, 
ivy-covered  walls,  rusty  cannon,  shady 
churchyards,  lofty  spires,  and  old  belfries 
are  the  daily  reminders  of  men  and  days  in 
Rhode  Island  that  the  passing  of  time  can 
never  erase  from  memory. 

Who  can  pass  the  old  Mansion  House 
that  still  stands  in  all  its  dilapidated  digni¬ 
ty  on  Benefit  Street  just  behind  the  old 
State  House  and  not  paint  a  mental  picture 
of  the  gay  occasion  when  General  Wash¬ 
ington  honored  the  establishment  with  his 
presence  during  his  historic  visit  to  this 
city?  Who  can  pass  through  the  portals 
of  the  old  State  House  and  not  picture,  for 
a  moment,  august  General  Lafayette  bow¬ 
ing  low  to  the  people  gathered  outside  to 
greet  him?  Who  can  visit  the  magnificent 
John  Brown  House  on  Power  Street  and  not 
imagine  that  wealthy  merchant  sitting  at 
his  richly  carved  Chippendale  desk  signing 
the  papers  that  would  send  some  fast-sail¬ 
ing  merchantman  away  to  the  distant  East 
Indies?  Who  can  wander  through  the 
lower  rooms  of  old  University  Hall  and 
not  see  visions  of  tired  French  troopers 
amusing  themselves  with  song  and  refresh¬ 
ment,  here  in  this  strange  land? 

And,  who  can  view  the  lofty  and  beauti¬ 
ful  spire  of  the  First  Baptist  Church  on 
North  Main  Street  and  not  think  of  that 
dark  day  in  September,  1815,  when  the  city 
of  Providence  was  the  victim  of  one  of  the 
strangest  pranks  ever  played  by  Nature? 
The  Second  Baptist  Church  succumbed  and 
went  to  pieces  under  the  combined  force  of 
the  wind  and  waves  but  the  tall  spire  of  the 
First  Baptist  Church  wavered  and  bent  to 
the  blast,  but  did  not  fall. 

The  Old  Stone  Mill,  that  grisly  old  mys- 



tery  of  the  past  that  brings  thousands  of  the 
curious  to  the  city  of  Newport  each  year, 
tells  a  mute  story  of  an  event  hazy  in  Rhode 
Island  history.  The  picturesque  Pidge 
Tavern  on  the  way  to  Pawtucket  still  has 
that  delightful  air  of  roadside  hospitality 
that  made  it  a  welcome  rendezvous  for  the 
weary  traveler  journeying  by  coach  from 
New  York  to  Boston.  Those  obscure  pray¬ 
ing  mounds  scattered  throughout  the  Nar- 
ragansett  country  could  still  be  places  of 
worship  for  the  forgotten  hordes  who  looked 
to  the  East  at  a  huge  stone  representing 
the  Sun  and  to  the  West  at  a  smaller  boulder 
symbolic  of  the  moon. 

Understanding  of  the  events  and  circum¬ 

stances  that  led  to  the  present  is  essential  to 
the  complete  understanding  of  the  respon¬ 
sibilities  of  citizenship.  The  study  of  civil 
government  and  of  history  are  identical, 
happily  so  for  us  since  Rhode  Island  history 
is  found  to  be  highly  entertaining. 

The  roots  of  the  present  lie  deep  in  the 
past,  and  nothing  in  the  past  is  dead  to  the 
man  who  would  learn  how  the  present  came 
to  be  what  it  is.  Though  we  must  not  distort 
the  past  in  an  effort  to  give  meaning  to  the 
present,  yet  we  can  fully  understand  to¬ 
day  only  by  a  study  of  previous  events;  and 
the  past,  on  the  other  hand,  is  appreciated 
only  by  those  who  realize  the  significance  of 
the  present. 




OF  all  the  barbarians  who  ever  raided 
Northern  Europe  and  the  British  Isles, 
the  fiercest  were  those  giant  blue-eyed  chief¬ 
tains  and  warriors  known  as  the  Vikings. 
They  were  fostered  in  a  land  of  bitter  north¬ 
ern  winds  and  hardened  to  the  terrors  of 
North  Atlantic  storms.  Their  famous  ships, 
the  “long  keels,”  dominated  the  northern 
waters  during  the  9th  and  10th  centuries. 
From  their  homes  in  the  Scandinavian 
peninsula  these  untamed  savages,  for  such 
indeed  they  were,  sailed  out  to  conquer  and 
plunder  the  whole  Northern  European  coast 
as  well  as  Scotland,  England  and  Ireland. 
And  well  they  succeeded,  for  at  various 
times  nearly  the  whole  of  Northern  Europe 
was  under  their  rule.  It  must  not  be  in¬ 
ferred  that  these  men  were  warriors  only. 
They  could  easily  adapt  themselves  to  new 
possessions  and  immediately  settle  down  to 
till  new  lands  and  plant  new  vineyards. 

The  name  “Viking”  is  derived  from  the 
old  Norse  term  vik  (a  bay) ,  and  means  one 
who  haunts  a  bay,  creek,  or  fjord.  Espe¬ 
cially  did  the  name  come  to  be  applied  to 
those  who  went  on  the  raiding  expeditions, 
leaving  their  homes  in  Scandinavia  for  the 
excitement  of  battle  and  conquest  on  for¬ 
eign  shores.  However,  while  the  name  it¬ 
self  has  a  very  narrow  significance  when 
applied  correctly,  it  has  come  to  be  broadly 
identified  with  a  definite  period  of  Scandi¬ 
navian  history. 

Most  of  the  history  of  the  Vikings  was 
first  written  by  medieval  Latin  chroniclers 
writing  in  monasteries  which  had  often  felt 
the  devastating  hand  of  the  raiders.  As 
might  be  expected,  these  accounts  stress  the 
extreme  cruelty  and  violence  of  the  Vik¬ 
ings,  whom  they  classed  with  pirates.  It 
has  only  been  since  Scandinavian  history 
has  been  fully  revealed  that  we  have  had  a 
chance  to  learn  much  of  the  true  nature  of 
the  Vikings  as  a  race  and  as  individuals. 
Of  course,  the  charge  of  cruelty  and  vio¬ 
lence  is  for  the  most  part  true.  These  men 


were  barbarians  of  the  fiercest  type.  Know¬ 
ing  no  religion  except  one  which  idealized 
Fatalism,  they  had  no  more  consideration 
for  themselves  than  for  their  enemies. 

They  fought  for  fame,  since  they  believed 
fame  alone  to  be  undying.  Consequently, 
in  battle  they  were  without  fear,  so  great 
was  their  desire  to  perpetuate  their  names  in 
the  sagas  and  heroic  songs  of  their  race. 
While,  like  other  warriors  of  the  European 
countries,  they  used  the  spear  and  two-edged 
sword,  the  characteristic  weapon  of  the  Vik¬ 
ings  was  their  terrible  broad-axe  which  they 
wielded  with  great  dexterity  and  power. 
Again  and  again  the  “long  keels”  were 
beached  on  English  shores,  and  the  long¬ 
haired  Norsemen,  with  their  great  horned 
helmets,  beat  back  the  defenders  of  the  land. 
By  one  great  English  chieftain  alone  were 
they  held  at  bay,  and  that  was  Alfred  the 
Great.  A  mighty  leader  himself,  he  was  able 
to  organize  the  inhabitants  of  his  country 
against  the  invaders,  and  drove  them  from 
the  land  during  his  long  reign. 

Russia,  Germany,  and  Normandy  all  felt 
the  Vikings’  steel,  in  alternate  waves  of 
invasion  and  conquest.  In  the  latter  coun¬ 
tries  the  Vikings  settled  down  on  farmlands 
won  from  inhabitants,  and  turned  to  the 
business  of  starting  vineyards.  Of  the  two 
besetting  sins  of  which  the  Norsemen  were 
guilty,  one  was  the  immoderate  love  of 
wine,  the  other,  of  women.  Especially  in 
the  aftermath  of  victory  would  they  let  their 
desires  run  free  and  spend  many  days  and 
nights  in  wild  carousal. 

However,  despite  the  evidence  which 
would  seem  to  imply  that  the  Vikings  were 
nothing  but  the  most  uncouth  of  human 
beings,  they  mixed  with  their  savagery  an 
astounding  amount  of  knowledge.  Again 
and  again  historians  have  remarked  of  this 
paradoxical  state  of  affairs,  when  recording 
the  history  of  this  wild  and  crafty  race  of 
fighters.  The  Scandinavian  peoples  at  the 
time  of  the  Vikings  were  in  a  state  of  tran¬ 
sition.  As  a  result  there  was  much  in  both 
their  theory  and  practice  of  life  that 
savoured  of  utter  barbarism,  while  at  the 
same  time  in  the  development  of  certain 



phases  of  human  activity,  especially  war, 
trade,  and  social  organization,  they  were 
considerably  ahead  of  most  of  their  Euro¬ 
pean  neighbors.  Particularly  does  the  story 
of  their  slow  and  halting  passage  from 
heathenism  to  Christianity  emphasize  the 
barbarous  side  of  their  natures.  As  an  ex¬ 
ample  of  their  savage  cruelty  in  war,  it  is 
only  necessary  to  state  what  is  commonplace 
among  historians, — that  the  victorious  Vik¬ 
ings  had  a  custom  of  cooking  their  food  on 
spits  stuck  in  the  bodies  of  their  fallen  foes. 

In  trade  and  social  life,  however,  the  Vik¬ 
ings  were  well  organized.  They  studied  sea¬ 
manship  carefully,  because  they  followed 
the  sea  in  all  their  undertakings.  They  had 
none  of  the  fanatical  daring  of  other  early 
seamen  and  explorers.  Even  in  their  most 
extensive  exploring  and  foraging  expedi¬ 
tions  they  placed  the  utmost  confidence  in 
their  own  knowledge  of  navigation  and  the 
staunchness  of  their  ships.  Trade  only  took 
place  in  time  of  truce,  for  the  Vikings  were 
much  more  inclined  to  take  what  they 
wished  than  barter  for  it. 

The  best  example  of  their  social  organ¬ 
ization  was  in  Iceland,  where  it  was  uninflu¬ 
enced  by  contact  with  any  other  European 
nation.  The  first  settlements  in  this  far 
northern  outpost  were  made  by  Viking 
noblemen  who  could  not  abide  the  rule  of 
one  of  their  own  chieftains.  At  first  they 
made  many  isolated  settlements  in  Iceland, 
but  they  soon  found  some  form  of  organiza¬ 
tion  was  necessary.  Leaders  were  chosen 
and  laws  set  up,  although  it  is  doubtful  whe¬ 

ther  the  latter  were  obeyed  to  any  great 
degree.  There  in  Iceland  a  true  Viking  civ¬ 
ilization  grew  up,  having  even  its  own 

It  was  from  the  Iceland  colony  that  expe¬ 
ditions  were  sent  to  Greenland  and  finally, 
in  1001,  to  Rhode  Island,  in  the  western 
hemisphere.  The  voyage  of  Lief  Ericson, 
while  among  the  first,  was  not  the  last  to  be 
made  by  the  Vikings  to  the  shores  of  this 
state.  They  were  greatly  attracted  by  the 
grapes  which  they  found  in  abundance  here, 
and  had  high  hopes  of  making  a  permanent 
settlement.  Three  times  they  came,  and  on 
the  last  were  driven  away  by  the  hostility 
of  the  natives.  It  may  seem  strange  that 
these  fierce  fighters  from  the  North  could 
be  so  easily  discouraged  in  their  conquest 
of  a  new  land,  but  it  must  also  be  remem¬ 
bered  that  those  who  reached  these  shores 
were  few,  a  mere  handful  against  the  hordes 
of  wily  Indians  who  sought  every  oppor¬ 
tunity  to  drive  out  the  invaders.  In  two 
bitter  skirmishes  the  Indians  were  driven 
back  into  the  forests  by  the  Vikings,  but  the 
latter  feared  another  attack,  and  gathering 
together  their  belongings  they  sailed  back 
to  Iceland.  Never  again  did  they  visit  these 

The  Vikings  were  a  race  of  fighting  heath¬ 
ens,  but  they  instilled  a  vital  blood  into  all 
the  peoples  of  Northern  Europe.  Without 
them  as  ancestors,  the  Normans  would  not 
have  had  the  spirit  that  drove  them  to  the 
conquest  of  England,  nor  would  the  Scot¬ 
tish  Highlanders  have  risen  to  fame. 


Despite  the  fact  that  France  has  always 
assumed  leadership  among  nations 
throughout  history,  she  was  decidedly  back¬ 
ward  in  participating  in  the  discovery  and 
conquest  of  the  New  World.  For  several 
decades  the  kings  of  England  had  been  sup¬ 
porting  expeditions  which  revealed  new 
continents;  Portugal  had  annexed  Brazil, 
as  well  as  the  West  Coast  of  Africa;  and 
Spain,  since  the  famous  voyage  of  Colum¬ 
bus  in  1492,  had  been  steadily  adding  to 
her  possessions  aind  wealth  in  the  new 
Americas.  Not  until  1523  did  France,  as 

a  nation,  awake  to  the  possibilities  of  the 

Not  all  the  people  of  France  had  been 
dormant  to  the  opportunities  revealed  by 
the  first  explorers.  The  hardy  mariners  of 
Brittany  and  Normandy,  upon  hearing  the 
reports  of  John  Cabot  concerning  the 
abundance  of  fish  in  the  waters  off  New¬ 
foundland,  had  sailed  west  in  their  fishing 
boats,  following  the  direction  of  the  Cabots 
and  the  Cortereals.  They  were  soon  fol¬ 
lowed  by  the  fishermen  of  Dieppe  and  Hon- 
fleur,  and  it  became  so  commonplace  for 



these  French  fishing  vessels  to  frequent  the 
newly  discovered  shores  that  it  seemed  to 
the  people  of  their  home  provinces  that  such 
had  been  their  custom  from  time  immemo¬ 
rial.  Consequently,  a  tradition  arose  that 
French  fishermen  had  not  waited  for 
Columbus  and  the  Cabots  to  show  them  the 
way  west. 

There  was  a  first  French  voyage  westward 
which  was  authentic,  being  sponsored  by 
the  people  of  Dieppe,  in  1508.  Becoming 
greatly  envious  of  the  discoveries  made  by 
the  Spaniards  in  America,  they  equipped 
two  vessels  for  the  purpose  of  discovering 
whether  on  not  that  part  of  the  world  did 
not  extend  further  northward.  The  com¬ 
mand  of  these  two  ships  was  given  jointly 
to  Thomas  Aubert  and  Jean  Verassen,  two 
of  their  most  skillful  sea  captains.  The  re¬ 
sult  of  this  venture  was  the  discovery  of 
the  river  which  they  named  St.  Lawrence, 
in  honor  of  the  martyred  Roman  saint. 
While  some  authorities  disagree,  because 
of  the  lack  of  sufficient  evidence,  others  be¬ 
lieve,  and  quite  reasonably,  that  the  Jean 
Verassen  of  this  voyage  in  1508,  was  none 
other  than  the  Giovanni  da  Verazzano  who 
was  later  to  make  explorations  in  the  name 
of  the  French  king,  Francis  I. 

In  the  fifteen  years  between  the  voyage 
of  Aubert  and  the  expedition  of  Verazzano 
in  1523,  there  was  nothing  except  the  ex¬ 
pedition  of  the  fishermen  and  one  Baron 
de  Lery  to  keep  France  a  competitor  in  the 
race  for  the  new  possessions.  The  attempt 
made  by  Baron  de  Lery  was  not  one  of  ex¬ 
ploration,  however,  but  one  of  colonization. 
He  endeavored  to  found  a  colony  on  Sable 
Island,  but  without  success  and  for  many 
years  the  island  was  occupied  solely  by 
the  cattle  and  pigs  which  he  brought  and 
their  descendants. 

In  1523,  Europe  was  disturbed  by  a  war 
between  Francis  I  of  France,  and  Charles 
V  of  Spain.  Inasmuch  as  the  latter  had 
established  regular  trade  and  communica¬ 
tion  between  his  newly  discovered  lands 
in  America  and  Spain,  Francis  I  sought  to 
harass  his  enemy  by  preying  on  the  ships 
which  brought  the  spoils  of  the  West  Indies 
to  the  Spanish  ports.  He  commissioned 
Verazzano  for  the  work  because  of  the 
latter’s  great  ability  as  a  navigator.  Veraz¬ 
zano  quickly  justified  his  sovereign’s  choice 
for  he  managed  to  fall  in  with  a  ship  which 

Cortes  was  sending  to  Charles  V.  This  he 
captured  and  sent  as  a  present  to  the  King 
of  France.  The  value  of  the  vessel  and  its 
cargo  amounted  to  a  million  and  one-half 
dollars,  the  most  of  it  being  made  up  of  the 
treasure  spoils  from  Montezuma’s  palace. 
With  the  capture  of  this  ship  the  eyes  of  the 
French  king  were  at  last  opened  to  the 
enormous  resources  which  Spain  controlled 
in  the  new  land.  He  acknowledged  that 
further  delay  in  joining  the  great  tide  of 
European  exploration  and  conquest  would 
be  disastrous  for  France. 

It  is  amusing  to  note  that  he  immediately 
dispatched  a  letter  to  Charles  V  asking  why 
he  was  left  out  when  the  world  was  divided 
between  Spain  and  Portugal.  He  inquired 
if  Father  Adam  had  left  a  last  will  and 
testament  designating  these  two  as  his  sole 
heirs.  Inasmuch  as  no  answer  came  to  his 
jovial  inquiry,  he  decided  to  send  Veraz¬ 
zano  to  the  West  Indies  to  make  explora¬ 
tions  for  France. 

This  famous  navigator  was  bom  in  about 
1480,  being  about  ten  years  of  age  when 
Columbus  made  his  great  voyage  of  discov¬ 
ery.  Although  his  family  was  of  noble  ex¬ 
traction  and  of  Italian  blood,  Giovanni  did 
not  remain  to  enjoy  the  ancestral  lands 
near  Florence,  Italy,  but  took  to  the  sea 
at  an  early  age.  He  gained  his  first  expe¬ 
rience  in  navigation  in  the  Mediterranean, 
making  trading  voyages  to  Egypt  and  Syria, 
and  in  1505  joined  the  maritime  service  of 

The  commission  which  Francis  I  gave 
Verazzano,  in  1523,  directed  him  not  only 
to  discover  lands  which  contained  gold  and 
precious  stones  but  to  look  also  for  a 
through  passage  to  Cathay  (China) .  At  the 
start  of  the  voyage  there  were  four  ships. 
However  a  severe  storm  was  totally  dis¬ 
astrous  to  two  of  these  vessels,  and  the 
other  two  were  forced  to  put  in  to  Brittany. 
When  the  two  damaged  ships  had  been  re¬ 
paired,  Verazzano  made  a  cruise  southward 
along  the  coast  of  Spain;  but  by  the  time 
he  reached  the  Portuguese  island  of  Ma¬ 
deira  he  had  decided  to  make  the  voyage  to 
America  with  just  one  ship,  the  Delfina. 

Sailing  from  Madeira,  on  January  17, 
1524,  he  had  with  him  fifty  men,  provisions 
sufficient  for  eight  months,  arms,  a  supply 
of  munitions,  and  a  store  of  naval  supplies. 
In  twenty-five  days  he  had  sailed  westward 



eight  hundred  leagues,  encountering  one 
terrific  storm,  but  otherwise  proceeding 
quietly  and  easily.  Changing  his  course 
slightly  northward,  he  covered  four  hun¬ 
dred  leagues  more  before  sighting  land. 
The  spot  where  he  first  dropped  anchor  be¬ 
fore  sailing  northward  up  the  Atlantic 
coast  was  near  Wilmington,  North  Caro¬ 

In  the  account  which  he  rendered  to  the 
King  of  France  upon  his  return  to  that  na¬ 
tion  he  constantly  mentions  the  lack  of 
harbors  along  the  new  coast,  which  neces¬ 
sitated  the  sending  of  a  small  boat  to  shore, 
whenever  the  members  of  the  crew  wished 
to  barter  with  the  natives.  The  absence  of 
harbors  did  not  appear  to  endanger  naviga¬ 
tion  for  nearly  everywhere  along  the  coast 
the  water  was  deep  enough  to  anchor  the 
ship  a  short  distance  from  the  shore. 

Verazzano  stopped  at  the  mouth  of  the 
Hudson  to  barter  with  the  natives,  but 
finally  proceeded  onward  to  what  are  now 
Block  Island,  Newport,  and  Narragansett 
Bay.  This  region  seemed  to  have  pleased 
him  more  than  any  other  which  he  visited. 
He  found  the  harbors  excellent  and  was 
greeted  by  many  small  boats  full  of  natives 
who  circled  his  ship,  uttering  strange  cries. 
Having  first  won  the  friendship  of  these 
Indian  inhabitants  by  throwing  trinkets  to 
them,  Verazzano  got  them  to  come  on  board. 
Both  the  men  and  women  were  the  finest 


Historians,  writing  of  Rhode  Island,  are 
sometimes  prone  to  forget  that  there 
was  a  white  settler  in  Rhode  Island  terri¬ 
tory  before  the  advent  of  either  Roger  Wil¬ 
liams  in  the  north,  or  William  Coddington 
in  the  south.  Yet  this  settler  has  given  a 
name  to  a  valley,  a  river,  a  town,  and  a 
canal.  William  Blackstone,  an  eccentric 
religious  recluse,  had  lived  a  whole  year  at 
Study  Hill  in  the  vicinity  of  what  is  now 
known  as  Cumberland,  before  Roger  Wil¬ 
liams,  in  1636,  and  William  Coddington,  in 
1637,  with  their  respective  hands  of  follow¬ 
ers,  came  from  the  Massachusetts  Colony 
to  settle  in  the  wilderness,  one  at  the  head 

specimens  of  natives  he  had  seen.  They  were 
extremely  good-tempered  and  generous,  and 
not  only  helped  Verazzano  to  pilot  his  ship 
to  a  safe  anchorage  but  guided  him  about 
the  surrounding  country  and  supplied  him 
with  all  the  provisions  he  needed.  The  ex¬ 
plorer  was  also  impressed  greatly  with  the 
fertility  of  the  country.  He  found  plains 
adapted  to  any  sort  of  cultivation,  luxuri¬ 
ous  trees,  some  bearing  fruit  and  nuts,  and 
great  numbers  of  deer  and  other  wild  ani¬ 
mals.  Especially  did  he  notice  the  wild 
grapes  which  grew  in  abundance  when 
partly  cultivated  by  the  Indians.  In  this 
he  was  much  like  the  Vikings  who  had 
reveled  in  their  discovery  of  the  grapes  of 
this  section  in  1001. 

When,  after  a  stay  of  fourteen  days  in 
this  pleasant  region,  Verazzano  turned  back 
toward  Europe,  having  only  gone  a  few 
leagues  farther  northward  from  Rhode 
Island,  he  spoke  in  glowing  terms  of  the 
glorious  section  of  the  new  land  which  we 
know  was  Rhode  Island.  Despite  the  fact 
that  he  did  not  discover  a  northwest  pass¬ 
age  to  China,  he  believed  that  there  was  one 
for  he  concluded  that  North  America  was 
a  group  of  islands  and  not  a  continent.  He 
did  not  live  to  achieve  more  glory  and 
knowledge  as  an  explorer,  for  on  his  second 
voyage  to  America  he  was  captured  by  the 
Spaniards  and  taken  to  Colmenar,  Spain, 
where  he  was  hung  as  a  pirate  in  1527. 


and  the  other  at  the  mouth  of  Narragansett 
Bay.  Nor  did  the  coming  of  these  two  groups 
of  settlers  at  all  affect  the  status  of  their  pre¬ 
decessor.  Once  settled  at  Study  Hill,  he 
fairly  rooted  himself  to  the  spot  as  if  to 
follow  in  part  the  example  of  his  apple 
trees.  But  he  did  make  occasional  pilgrim¬ 
ages  to  Boston  and  to  Providence,  journey¬ 
ing  to  the  former  settlement  with  a  predom¬ 
inance  of  personal  motives  but  to  the  latter 
with  only  the  highest  spirit  of  altruism. 
Though  he  was  by  nature  (being  in  advance 
of  his  time)  a  voluntary  recluse,  he  did  not 
become  feeble  in  intelligence  or  lax  in 
ideals,  but  remained  an  astute  philosopher 
and  tolerant  clergyman. 



Nothing  is  known  of  William  Black- 
stone’s  early  life  in  England.  Even  the  date 
of  his  birth  has  been  lost  in  the  shadow  of 
the  more  famous  Sir  William  Blackstone 
of  legal  fame  who  may  or  may  not  have 
been  a  blood  relation.  The  first  records  of 
this  earliest  Rhode  Island  settler  are  those 
which  state  that  he  received  his  Bachelor  of 
Arts  degree  from  Emanuel  College,  Cam¬ 
bridge,  in  1617  and  his  Master  of  Arts  de¬ 
gree  in  1621.  Just  when  or  how  he  came  to 
New  England  (called  then  New  Virginia) 
is  not  known  but  the  year  of  his  arrival  in 
America  has  been  estimated  as  1625.  He 
settled  first  in  Boston  on  what  was  then 
called  Shawmut  Point.  The  area  included 
that  now  known  as  Beacon  Hill  and  extend¬ 
ed  along  the  south  side  of  the  Charles  River. 
Blackstone  lived  here  alone  through  1629. 

However,  in  1630,  Winthrop  and  his 
group  of  colonists  arrived  from  England 
and  established  themselves  on  the  north 
side  of  the  Charles  at  a  spot  where  Charles¬ 
ton  is  now  located.  But  when  many  of  the 
little  Colony  fell  sick  because  of  a  lack  of 
pure  water,  Blackstone  crossed  the  river 
and  invited  them  to  make  their  homes  with¬ 
in  his  territory  where  there  were  several 
large  and  untainted  springs.  It  must  have 
been  with  a  good  deal  of  surprise  that  these 
new  settlers  from  England  greeted  this  hos¬ 
pitable  stranger,  for  they  hardly  expected 
to  find  another  of  their  kind  already  estab¬ 
lished  in  the  land  they  had  supposed  to  be 
an  absolute  wilderness.  But  while  William 
Blackstone  had  also  left  England  to  escape 
the  tyranny  of  the  potentates  of  the  English 
Church,  he  was  not  at  odds  with  the  original 
principles  of  the  English  Episcopal  Church. 
He  still  wore,  in  America,  his  English 
clergyman’s  costume  and  for  that  reason 
gave  offense  to  the  Puritans  who  later  came 
to  Boston.  There  is  a  tradition  that  Win¬ 
throp  and  his  party  at  first  had  planned  to 
oust  Blackstone  from  his  territory  at  Shaw¬ 
mut  on  the  pretext  of  having  a  grant  to  the 
land  from  the  king.  Blackstone  replied  to 
their  contention:  “The  king  asserteth  sov¬ 
ereignty  over  this  New  Virginia  in  respect 
that  John  and  Sebastian  Cabot  sailed  along 
the  coast  without  ever  landing  at  any  place; 
and  if  the  quality  of  sovereignty  can  sub¬ 
sist  upon  the  substratum  of  mere  inspection, 
surely  the  quality  of  property  can  subsist 
upon  that  of  actual  occupancy  which  is  my 

claim.”  Whether  Blacktone  made  such  a 
statement  or  not,  the  words  are  character¬ 
istic  of  both  his  ingenious  logic  and  his  in¬ 
dependence.  At  least,  in  1634,  the  members 
of  the  Boston  Colony  finally  paid  him  six 
shillings  apiece  for  his  rights  to  the  land, 
although  he  retained  six  acres  for  his  own 
use.  On  this  bit  of  land  he  had  his  home 
where  he  raised  apples  and  roses  brought 
over  from  England.  Surrounding  the  house 
was  his  park,  now  Boston  Common,  and 
here  he  used  to  walk  in  the  afternoons. 

Although  Blackstone  remained  in  the 
Boston  Colony  for  five  years,  he  finally  had 
to  leave,  not  because  of  any  open  outbreak 
with  the  colonists  but  because  he  would 
not  join  with  them.  He  was  literally  frozen 
out,  though  he  is  never  mentioned  harshly 
in  the  records.  According  to  Cotton 
Mather,  Blackstone  said:  “I  came  from 
England  because  I  did  not  like  the  lord- 
bishops,  but  I  cannot  join  with  you  because 
I  would  not  be  under  the  lord-brethren.” 

Blackstone  saw  that  there  was  intoler¬ 
ance  both  within  and  without  the  church, 
and  wished  to  follow  his  sequestered  life  of 
contemplation  and  study.  In  1635,  he  in¬ 
vested  his  small  capital  in  cattle,  and 
dressed  in  his  “canonicall  Coate”  and  carry¬ 
ing  his  beloved  books,  set  out  through  the 
wilderness  with  but  one  companion,  a  ser¬ 
vant,  named  Abbot,  from  whom  Abbot’s 
Run  in  Cumberland  takes  its  name. 

He  finally  came  to  a  place  which  the 
Indians  called  Wawepoonseag.  Here  he 
settled  in  a  territory  which  was  without  a 
white  inhabitant.  In  what  was  then  a  part 
of  Rehoboth  but  is  now  Cumberland,  near 
Lonsdale,  he  built  a  home.  It  was  located 
at  the  foot  of  a  three-terraced  hill.  On  the 
second  terrace  he  dug  a  well,  and  at  the  top 
built  a  shelter  which  he  used  as  a  study. 
Consequently  the  hill  became  known  as 
Study  Hill.  He  further  named  the  section 
“Attleborough  Gore.”  Always  a  lover  of 
gardens  and  orchards,  he  here  planted 
fresh  shoots  from  his  Boston  apple  trees 
and  slips  from  his  English  rosebushes. 

As  a  recluse  he  pursued  his  philoso¬ 
phical  bent  thoroughly.  He  had  a  very 
large  library  for  the  times,  consisting  of 
86  volumes.  The  books,  as  well  as  his  own 
philosophical  writings,  were  destroyed 
when  the  Indians  burned  his  home  during 
their  uprising  after  his  death  in  1675. 



He  had  no  trouble  with  the  Indians  during 
his  whole  lifetime  of  eighty  years.  At  his 
death  there  were  160  inhabitants  in  the 
vicinity  of  Study  Hill,  and  it  is  supposed 
that  he  used  to  preach  for  their  church  serv¬ 
ices.  But,  in  the  main,  Blackstone  remained 
absolutely  alone  in  regard  to  church  afflia- 
tions,  and  it  is  probably  for  that  reason  that 
he  is  neglected  in  many  histories.  His  motto 
always  was  “tolerance”  in  the  real  sense  of 
the  word,  and  even  Roger  Williams  could 
not  measure  against  him  in  that  respect. 
A  singular  man,  he  might,  under  different 
circumstances,  have  been  a  great  leader  in 
New  England.  Ahead  of  his  time,  he  would 
probably  have  been  a  close  friend  of  Bishop 
Berkley,  another  deep  philosopher. 

Blackstone,  despite  his  eccentricities  as  a 
recluse,  did  not  remain  single  all  his  life. 
He  frequently  made  journeys  to  Boston, 
riding  on  a  bull,  and  finally  won  the  hand 
of  Sarah  Stevenson,  the  widow  of  John 
Stevenson.  In  1659,  they  were  married  by 
Governor  Endicott,  Blackstone  preferring 
a  magistrate  to  a  minister  of  the  Boston 
Church  to  which  he  would  not  join.  Mrs. 
Stevenson  already  had  one  son  named 
John,  and  when  she  gave  the  name  John  to 
the  son  of  her  second  marriage,  she  caused 
much  later  confusion  of  records.  John 
Stevenson,  Blackstone’s  stepson,  was  given 
50  acres  of  Blackstone’s  200  acre  farm  at 
Study  Hill  after  the  latter’s  death.  The 
other  son,  John  Blackstone,  became  some¬ 
what  dissipated  for  a  while,  squandering  his 
heritage  of  land,  but  he  finally  settled  down 
to  a  respectable  life  in  Branford,  Connecti¬ 
cut,  where  his  descendants  acquired  a  high 
place  in  public  esteem.  There  is  an  unsub¬ 

stantiated  report  that  a  grandson  of  Black¬ 
stone  was  killed  at  the  seige  of  Louisburg. 

Mrs.  Blackstone  died  in  1673,  two  years 
before  her  husband,  and  both  were  buried 
at  the  foot  of  Study  Hill.  The  personal 
estate  of  Blackstone  was  meager,  being  but 
forty  pounds.  He  had  never  acquired  a 
great  amount  of  money,  but  his  simple 
tastes  and  his  mental  tranquillity  were 
never  disturbed  by  a  lean  larder. 

Stephen  Hopkins,  writing  for  the  Provi¬ 
dence  Gazette ,  said:  “Mr.  Blackstone  used 
frequently  to  come  to  Providence  to  preach 
the  Gospel.”  This,  however,  was  when  he 
was  quite  old.  He  could  not  walk  easily 
and  rode  a  bull  on  these  journeys.  Though 
a  radical  in  the  eyes  of  many  of  the  old,  he 
was  much  beloved  by  the  children  to  whom 
he  used  to  bring  sweet  apples,  the  first  they 
had  ever  seen,  from  his  orchard  at  Study 
Hill.  Governor  Hopkins,  again  writing  of 
Blackstone,  in  1765,  said:  “Many  of  the 
trees  which  he  planted  about  150  years  ago 
are  still  pretty,  thrifty  fruitbearing  trees.” 

This,  then,  is  the  story  of  William  Black¬ 
stone,  the  first  white  inhabitant  of  Boston, 
and  later  of  Rhode  Island.  A  keen  thinker, 
a  true  apostle  of  the  highest  religion,  of 
rugged  character  and  unflinching  purpose, 
he  maintained  his  ideals  in  the  face  of 
obstacles  to  which  a  weaker  man  might  have 
succumbed.  A  truly  great  man  of  God, 
despite  his  eccentricities,  he  may  well  be 
proudly  hailed  by  Rhode  Island  as  her  first 
settler.  A  friend  of  Roger  Williams,  of  the 
Massachusetts  magistrates,  and  of  the  In¬ 
dian  chieftains,  Massasoit  and  Miantanomi, 
he  held  to  his  inspired  conception  of  toler¬ 
ance  unto  his  death. 


All  the  gold  and  silver  that  men  have 
fought,  cheated,  sweat,  and  died  to 
obtain  since  time  immemorial  has  not  al¬ 
ways  had  the  power  to  win  new  slaves.  The 
early  explorers  who  followed  Columbus  to 
the  new  world  might  have  brought  all  the 
wealth  of  Greece  or  Rome  or  golden  Sar- 
markand  with  them  and  found  it  useless  in 
dealing  with  a  great  Aztec  civilization.  To 
the  Aztecs  gold  and  silver  were  only  excel¬ 

lent  materials  from  which  to  fashion  ex¬ 
quisite  objects  of  jewelry  and  art,  and  of 
these  their  supply  was  plentiful.  Their 
coveted  form  of  wealth  was  supplied  by 
nature  herself  in  the  role  of  mintmaster, 
for  their  whole  monetary  standard  was 
based  upon  one  of  her  most  convenient  and 
durable  products — the  cocoa  bean.  And 
long  after  various  metals  had  become  com¬ 
mon  as  currency,  chocolate  made  from 



cocoa  beans,  still  formed  the  main  stand¬ 
ard  of  value.  Only  in  Peru,  that  mine  of 
wealth  for  European  plunderers,  had  the 
precious  metals  come  into  complete  usage. 

Farther  north,  in  the  other  more  forbid¬ 
ding  and  less-civilized  American  continent, 
early  European  settlers  found  even  less  use 
for  the  gold  and  silver  that  had  always 
meant  power.  Whether  they  wished  or  not, 
they  had  to  turn  first  to  simple  trading  in 
dealings  with  the  native  Indians,  and  often, 
even  among  themselves.  England,  from 
the  time  of  Elizabeth,  was  not  allowing 
monetary  wealth  to  slip  out  of  the  British 
Isles  and  be  wasted  and  lost  in  the  Ameri¬ 
can  wildernesses.  And  so  various  mediums 
of  a  fair  convenience,  such  as  skins,  guns 
and  powder,  cloth,  and  strong  liquors, 
formed  the  basis  of  exchange,  just  as  in 
our  western  pioneer  days,  when  money  was 
scarce  though  not  belittled,  whiskey  in  bar¬ 
rels  passed,  unopened,  through  many 
hands  and  paid  many  debts.  So  many  com¬ 
modities  have  at  one  time  or  another  served 
in  the  capacity  of  money  during  the  history 
of  this  country  that  it  would  be  both  im¬ 
possible  and  useless  to  list  them.  But  of 
all  these  there  was  one  which  came  the 
nearest  to  the  form  of  actual  money  and 
which  was  widely  used,  both  by  the  Indians 
along  the  whole  Atlantic  Coast  and  by  the 
settlers  as  well,  and  that  was  wampum,  or 
shell  currency. 

In  dealing  with  the  red  men  gold  and 
silver  would  have  been  worse  than  useless. 
Their  eyes  found  no  avaricious  pleasure  in 
the  gleam  of  these  metals  to  compare  with 
that  they  received  from  beholding  or  pos¬ 
sessing  the  bits  of  bright  colored  shell 
which  formed  both  their  ornaments  and 
their  currency.  The  use  of  small  pieces  of 
shell  in  the  making  of  ornaments,  such  as 
girdles,  bracelets,  belts  and  tobacco 
pouches,  and  in  the  decoration  of  their 
headresses  and  clothing  came  first.  And  of 
the  former,  the  wampum  tobacco  pouch  of 
King  Philip  is  a  rich  example.  But  out  of 
this  first  usage  came  the  gradual  transition 
which  established  wampum  as  Indian 

So  convenient  a  medium  of  exchange 
was  quickly  adopted  by  all  the  settlers 
along  the  Atlantic  Coast  and  used  exten¬ 
sively  among  themselves.  And  not  only 
did  the  Europeans  accept  the  use  of  wam¬ 

pum,  but  with  characteristic  commercial 
aggressiveness  they  attempted  to  manufac¬ 
ture  a  counterfeit  variety  out  of  glass.  Back 
in  1608,  Captain  John  Smith  of  the  James¬ 
town  Colony  supervised  a  factory  which 
began  to  turn  out  this  product,  and,  in 
1621,  another  factory  under  Captain  Wil¬ 
liam  Norton  started  a  brief  career  in  the 
manufacture  of  artificial  wampum.  Both 
enterprises  failed,  however,  their  only  re¬ 
sult  being  to  lower  the  value  of  all 

Roger  Williams  gives  a  good  description 
of  the  wampum  used  by  Rhode  Island  In¬ 
dians  in  his  “Key  to  the  Language  of  the 
Narragansetts,”  written  in  1643:  “Their 
owne  is  of  two  sorts ;  one  white,  which  they 
make  of  the  stem  or  stocke  of  the  Peri- 
wincle,  which  they  call  Meteauhock,  when 
the  shell  is  broken  off :  and  of  this  sort  six 
of  their  small  beads  (which  they  make  with 
holes  to  string  the  bracelets)  are  current 
with  the  English  for  a  peny. 

“The  second  is  black,  including  the  blew, 
which  is  made  of  the  shell  of  a  fish  which 
some  English  call  Hens ,  Poquauhock,  and 
of  this  three  make  an  English  peny. 

“They  live  upon  the  sea  side,  generally 
make  of  it,  and  as  many  make  as  will. 

“The  Indians  bring  downe  all  their  sorts 
of  furs,  which  they  take  in  the  Countrey, 
both  to  the  Indians  and  to  the  English  for 
this  Indian  money :  this  money  the  English, 
French,  and  Dutch,  trade  to  the  Indians , 
six  hundred  miles  in  severall  parts  (North 
and  South  from  New  England)  for  their 
furres,  and  whatsoever  they  stand  in  need 
of  from  them:  as  Corne,  Venison,  etc.” 

Such  wampum  we  may  see  today  among 
the  Indian  relics  in  museums.  It  was  chiefly 
made  from  the  shells  of  clams,  quahogs, 
and  periwinkles  and  was  then  fashioned 
(although  with  some  variations)  into  beads 
about  a  quarter  of  an  inch  long  and  slightly 
less  that  in  diameter.  The  fragile  portions 
of  the  shells  were  broken  off  and  the  beads 
ground  out  of  the  thicker  part,  the  holes 
being  drilled  with  a  piece  of  flint  rotated  in 
the  hands.  Water  was  used  to  keep  the 
shells  cool  while  this  process  was  going  on, 
thus  preventing  cracking.  They  were  drilled 
from  both  sides  and  finally  rubbed  to  a 
high  polish  and  strung. 

It  was  the  Dutch  commander,  De  Rosiers, 
who  introduced  wampum  as  currency  to 



the  members  of  the  Plymouth  Colony  in 
1627,  and  Governor  Bradford  records  this 
in  his  history  as  follows:  “But  that  which 
turned  most  to  their  (the  colonists)  profite, 
in  time,  was  an  entrance  into  the  trade  of 
Wampampeake;  for  they  bought  50£  worth 
of  it  .  .  .  and  strange  it  was  to  see  the  great 
allteration  it  made  in  a  few  years  among 
the  Indeans  themselves;  for  all  the  Indeans 
of  these  parts  and  the  Massachusetts  had 
none  or  very  little  of  it,  but  the  sachems, 
and  some  spetiall  persons  that  wore  a  little 
of  it  for  ornaments  .  .  .  Neither  did  the 
English  of  this  plantation,  or  any  other  in 
the  land,  till  now  that  they  had  knowledge 
of  it  from  the  Dutch,  so  much  as  to  know 
what  it  was,  much  less  that  it  was  a  com- 
moditie  of  that  worth  and  valew  .  .  But 
after  it  thus  grew  to  be  a  commoditie  in 
these  parts,  these  Indeans  fell  into  it  allso, 
and  to  learn  how  to  make  it  .  .  .  and  it 
hath  now  continued  a  current  commoditie 
about  this  twenty  years  ...  In  the  mean¬ 
time  it  makes  the  Indeans  of  these  parts 
rich  and  power-full  and  also  prowd 

Governor  Bradford  saw  in  the  new  cur¬ 
rency  a  danger  as  well  as  an  advantage 
and  thought  the  possession  of  much  of  it 
would  ruin  many  as  much  as  gold.  But  so 
important  had  it  become  by  1640  that  the 
Colony  had  to  give  it  official  recognition. 
Accordingly  it  was  ordered  that  “white 
wampampege  shall  pass  at  4  a  penny  and 
blewe  at  2  a  penny  and  not  above  12  d  at 
a  time,”  and,  later,  that  “wampampege 
shall  pass  current  at  6  a  penny  for  any 
sume  under  10  L  sterling  for  debts  here¬ 
after  to  be  made.” 

For  a  long  while  the  English  made  a 
very  good  thing  out  of  wampum  but  first 
tobacco,  in  Virginia,  and  later  silver,  com¬ 
ing  into  the  English  colonies  of  New  Eng¬ 

land  from  commerce  with  other  European 
countries,  began  to  displace  the  Indian 
currency.  Yet,  among  the  Indians  them¬ 
selves,  it  retained  to  the  last  all  of  its  high 
value.  It  was  generally  worn  in  belts  and 
girdles,  a  necessary  amount  being  sliced 
off  with  a  knife  whenever  a  trade  was 
made.  For  doweries  given  to  the  parents 
of  Indian  brides,  wampum  was  usually 
used  to  the  amount  of  five  or  six  fathoms, 
although  the  daughter  of  a  Great  Sachem 
could  command  a  price  of  ten  fathoms. 
When  strung,  wampum  was  always  counted 
by  the  fathom,  such  an  amount  being 
worth  six  English  shillings.  As  its  use 
spread  it  was  not  uncommon  to  find  it 
accepted  by  Indian  tribes  some  six  hundred 
miles  inland  from  the  coast. 

Although  wampum  is  the  name  by  which 
the  settlers  of  early  days  knew  all  this 
picturesque  currency,  the  name  among  the 
Indians  signified  “white”  and  applied  only 
to  the  higher  valued  beads  made  from  the 
white  shells  of  the  periwinkle.  They  called 
the  black,  made  from  the  shells  of  qua- 
hogs,  suckauhock. 

Probably  no  other  primitive  currency 
has  quite  the  same  intangible  essence  of  the 
romantic  as  wampum,  which  served  the 
two-fold  purpose  of  ornament  and  neces¬ 
sity.  In  those  times  an  Indian  carried  his 
whole  wealth  with  him  whenever  he  was  in 
full  regalia,  the  girdles,  bracelets,  and 
belts  of  the  colored  shells  adding  a  distinc¬ 
tive  richness  to  his  skin  clothing.  But, 
there  once  more,  we  can  hardly  recapture 
its  full  significance  as  a  part  of  the  Indian 
costume,  even  though  aided  by  pictures  and 
museum  relics,  much  less  imagine  its  ac¬ 
ceptance  by  European  settlers  as  currency. 
It  is  just  one  more  thing  that  was  a  distinct 
part  of  the  Indian  himself  and  with  him 
has  long  faded  from  our  consciousness. 


Though  we  have  before  us  the  conven¬ 
tional  picture  of  woman  throughout 
history  guarding  the  fireside,  shielding  her 
children,  nevertheless  there  were  many 
Joans  and  Ruths  to  whom  little  space  is  de¬ 
voted  in  books  of  history.  Even  since  1620 
there  have  been  many  women  who  did  more 

than  lend  moral  support  to  the  kaleido¬ 
scopic  events  which  have  succeeded  one  an¬ 
other  since  that  date  on  this  side  of  the 
Atlantic.  One  of  these  most  clearly  typified, 
in  her  day,  the  independent,  forceful  and 
dominant  woman  who  has,  in  this  present 
century,  given  the  nation,  the  State,  the  city, 



the  town  and  the  country-seat  contributions 
of  leadership,  wisdom  and  intelligent  co¬ 
operation,  all  of  which  have  helped  bring 
about  greater  prosperity,  greater  happiness 
and  greater  hope  for  the  future. 

This  woman  influenced  events  and  their 
turnings  not  only  in  our  own  State,  but  in 
the  infant  nation  during  the  very  beginnings 
of  American  history — her  name  was  Anne 
Hutchinson,  a  true  forerunner  of  the  nine¬ 
teenth  century  women  who  threw  open  the 
calls  and  professions  to  their  sex. 

Mrs.  Hutchinson  arrived  at  Boston  on 
the  good  ship  “Griffin,”  in  1634.  She  was 
accompanied  by  her  husband  and  their  fif¬ 
teen  children,  and  it  is  reported  that  they 
brought  with  them  a  thousand  guineas  in 
gold.  Mrs.  Hutchinson’s  voyaging  to  Amer¬ 
ica  from  England  was  the  outcome  of  the 
Reverend  John  Cotton’s  leaving  his  home 
because  of  religious  persecution  there.  She 
had  “sat  under”  his  preaching  in  the  church 
in  England,  and  was  most  anxious  to  bene¬ 
fit  again  by  his  teachings,  so  she  and  her 
family  followed  the  clergyman  to  this  new 

Anne  Hutchinson  was  born  at  some  time 
during  the  last  years  of  the  reign  of  Queen 
Elizabeth.  One  writer  says  that  she  was 
barely  turned  forty  years  old  when  she 
arrived  in  America.  If  so,  she  was  prob¬ 
ably  born  around  1594,  which  was  a  point 
of  religious  controversy  in  England.  Her 
father  was  a  Puritan  minister,  preaching 
both  in  Lincolnshire  and  in  London.  It  was 
said  that,  “She  was  a  gentlewoman  in  the 
fullest  English  sense  of  the  word,  related  to 
the  distinguished,  aristocratic  family,  the 
Blounts.”  Her  mother  was  a  sister  of  Sir 
Edward  Dryden,  father  of  the  poet  Dryden, 
and  Anne  herself  is  said  to  have  enjoyed 
every  advantage  of  education  and  culture 
that  the  times  afforded. 

In  her  girlhood  she  evidently  heard  con¬ 
siderable  theological  controversy,  for  this 
was  the  time  of  the  Puritan  revolt  in  Eng¬ 
land,  and  of  great  religious  excitement. 
Naturally  intelligent  and  earnest,  her  men¬ 
tal  powers  were  aroused  and  quickened. 
While  she  was  still  a  child,  Queen  Eliza¬ 
beth  died  and  James  the  First  succeeded 
her.  King  James  desired  most  intensely 
“an  ordered  and  obedient  Church,  its 
synods  that  met  at  the  royal  will,  its  courts 

that  carried  out  the  royal  ordinances,  its 
bishops  that  held  themselves  to  be  royal 
officers.”  The  Puritans  still  ventured  to 
dispute  the  infallibility  of  the  King.  The 
policy  of  the  Crown  was  revealed  when 
James  said,  “I  will  make  them  (the  Puri¬ 
tans)  conform,  or  I  will  harry  them  out  of 
the  land.” 

During  the  last  eight  or  nine  years  before 
Anne  sailed  for  Boston  she  must  have  been 
constantly  informed  of  the  fight  of  the 
people  for  their  rights  against  the  Crown. 
Always,  people  were  studying  the  Bible, 
pondering  on  its  meaning,  rebelling  against 
the  arbitrary  dictates  of  the  bishops.  As  has 
been  said,  her  father  was  a  Puritan  min¬ 
ister  and  she  doubtless  felt  indignation  at 
the  persecution  by  the  bishops  of  him  and 
of  her  beloved  pastor,  John  Cotton. 

So,  unhappy  Anne,  with  her  husband  and 
family,  sailed  away  to  Boston,  where,  for 
three  years,  the  Hutchinson  home  was 
across  the  street  from  John  Winthrop’s  resi¬ 
dence.  Anne  was  a  capable,  energetic, 
amiable  woman,  and  a  great  nurse.  As  she 
went  from  house  to  house  on  her  errands 
of  mercy,  she  would  talk  with  the  women 
to  whom  she  ministered,  and  won  their  af¬ 
fection  and  respect.  In  fact,  both  men  and 
women  welcomed  her  intellectual  and  mag¬ 
netic  personality.  She  had  a  vigorous  mind, 
a  dauntless  courage,  and  a  natural  gift  for 

At  this  point  in  history  the  women  in 
America  participated  fully  in  the  long  Sun¬ 
day  religious  services,  and  might  also  be 
present  at  a  Saturday  evening  service;  but 
while  they  mingled  with  the  numerous  as¬ 
semblies  for  constituting  churches,  and  for 
ordaining  ministers  and  elders,  there  were 
meetings  for  religious  discourse  from  which 
women  were  excluded.  Mrs.  Hutchinson 
thought  she  was  supplying  a  deficiency 
when  she  instituted  a  meeting  for  her  own 
sex.  This  enterprise  of  hers  met  with  fa¬ 
vor,  rather  than  with  disapprobation,  at 
first.  From  fifty  to  sixty,  and  sometimes 
one  hundred  women  met  at  her  home, 
listening  with  devoted  interest  to  her  more 
than  metaphysical  distinctions  of  the  two 
covenants,  the  Covenant  of  Grace  and  the 
Covenant  of  Works. 

For  one  period  she  held  two  such  meet¬ 
ings  weekly,  and  the  nominal  purpose  of 




them  was  for  the  repetition  and  the  im¬ 
pression  of  the  sermons  delivered  by  Mr. 
Cotton  at  his  Sunday  and  Thursday  serv¬ 
ices.  Then  it  was  said  of  her  “That  Anne 
Hutchinson  was  the  first  organizer  of  the 
earliest  woman’s  club  in  the  world.”  At 
first  these  meetings  met  with  general  favor, 
and  how  long  it  was  before  they  invited 
criticism  from  most  of  the  clergy  and  the 
authorities,  it  is  not  recorded,  but  certainly, 
by  the  end  of  the  first  two  years  of  Mrs. 
Hutchinson’s  abode  in  the  New  World  she 
was  being  severely  regarded  as  an  instigator 
of  strife  and  dissention. 

Mrs.  Hutchinson  claimed  to  have  had  a 
revelation  relative  to  the  Covenant  of 
Grace.  She  was  regarded  as  affirming  that 
a  state  in  which  a  man  is  justified  before 
God  precedes  and  is  independent  of  his 
obedience  to  the  law  of  holiness.  The  at¬ 
tempt  to  prove,  or  to  find  a  ground  of 
confidence  for  our  justification  by  means 
of  outward  sanctification,  she  pronounced 
to  be  a  walking  by  a  Covenant  of  Works; 
she  looked  to  a  far  higher  covenant,  that 
of  “grace.”  The  moment  that  distinction 
is  stated,  it  may  be  perceived  that  it  could 
not  fail  to  bring  into  discredit  the  formal 
and  methodical  observances  of  the  scrupu¬ 
lous  forefathers  of  New  England.  The 
outward  manifestations  of  piety  were 
then  much  regarded,  and  stringently  en¬ 
forced;  perhaps  their  importance  was  ex¬ 
aggerated;  they  certainly  were  open  to  the 
charge  of  too  much  resembling  display.  Not 
only  was  a  grave  and  reverend  bearing  ex¬ 
pected,  but  austerity  in  looks,  and  sancti¬ 
moniousness  in  dress  and  phrase,  were  con¬ 
sidered  all-essential. 


WHEN  Anne  Hutchinson  heard  her  sen¬ 
tence  of  excommunication  pronounced 
by  the  Elders  of  the  Puritan  Church  in 
Massachusetts  and  rose  to  walk  out  of  the 
church  from  which  she  had  been  banished, 
she  did  not  go  alone.  Another  woman,  as 
fearless  as  she,  also  rose  from  the  congre¬ 
gation  and  passed  down  the  aisle  and  out 
the  door  at  her  side.  This  other  woman, 
soon  to  begin  her  own  ordeal  of  martyr¬ 
dom,  was  Mary  Dyer. 

Soon  the  seditious  doctrines  of  this 
apostle  brought  denunciation  upon  her 
head.  She  was  tried  by  a  civil  court,  dur¬ 
ing  the  proceedings  of  which  she  valiantly 
defended  herself  and  her  doctrines.  Some 
of  the  deepest  controversialists  of  that 
scholastic  day  found  her  a  woman  whom  all 
their  trained  and  sharpened  minds  were  in¬ 
adequate  to  foil.  However,  the  odds  against 
her  were  too  great;  she  was  excommuni¬ 
cated  and  banished  from  the  Colony  with 
the  bidding  that  “she  go  out  from  among 
them,  and  trouble  the  land  no  more.” 

Anne  and  her  husband,  with,  perhaps, 
eighteen  sympathizers  from  Boston,  de¬ 
parted  for  Rhode  Island,  where  she  was 
welcomed  by  Roger  Williams.  At  Provi¬ 
dence,  Mrs.  Hutchinson  drew  around  her  a 
goodly  number  of  people,  including 
Quakers  and  Baptists,  who  listened  to  her 
discourses  with  interest.  Roger  Williams 
was  much  in  sympathy  with  Mrs.  Hutchin¬ 
son  personally,  although  not  adopting  all 
her  views.  He  thought  that  in  view  of  the 
great  usefulness  of  Mrs.  Hutchinson  as  a 
nurse  and  neighbor,  she  should  be  allowed 
to  speak  when  she  chose  and  say  what  she 
wished.  “Because,  if  it  be  a  lie,  it  will  die; 
and  if  it  be  true,  we  ought  to  know  it.” 

The  Hutchinsons  lived  on  the  island  of 
Aquidneck  until  the  death  of  Mr.  Hutchin¬ 
son.  Then  Anne  moved  to  New  York  State 
with  the  surviving  members  of  her  family, 
where  her  life  ended  in  a  tragedy  not  un¬ 
known  in  those  perilous  times.  In  August, 
1643,  Mrs.  Hutchinson  and  the  fifteen  mem¬ 
bers  of  her  household  at  the  time,  with  one 
exception,  perished  in  an  attack  by  the 


Perhaps  Mary  Dyer  would  have  done  the 
same  if  another  woman  had  been  in  Anne 
Hutchinson’s  place.  Her  kindness  of  heart 
and  deep  sympathy  with  all  who  were  per¬ 
secuted  and  oppressed  urged  her  to  the 
side  of  any  who  suffered,  but  how  much 
greater  was  her  feeling  for  this  particular 
sufferer  who  was  both  her  leader  and  her 
friend.  That  Mrs.  Hutchinson  should  have 
undergone  persecution  at  the  hands  of  the 
Puritans  had  already  brought  a  great  deal 



of  grief  to  Mary  Dyer,  but  her  distress  at 
the  misery  of  her  friend  had  only  sub¬ 
jected  her  to  the  jeers  of  pitiless  neighbors. 
These  two  had  always  been  bound  together 
in  one  common  feeling,  and  together  they 
found  strength  and  solace  in  sorrow. 

Mary  Dyer  had  come  to  this  country  with 
her  husband  in  1635.  They  had  lived  in 
London  where  William  Dyer  had  been  a 
milliner  in  the  New  Exchange.  Mrs.  Dyer 
was  described  by  several  writers  of  the 
time  in  various  ways.  Gerald  Croese,  a 
Dutch  writer,  spoke  of  her  as  “a  person  of 
no  mean  extraction  and  parentage,  of  an 
estate  pretty  plentiful,  of  a  comely  stature 
and  countenance,  of  a  piercing  knowledge 
in  many  things,  of  a  wonderfully  sweet 
and  pleasant  disposition,  so  fit  for  great 
affairs  that  she  wanted  nothing  that  was 
manly  except  only  the  name  and  sex.” 
George  Bishop,  writing  a  year  after  her 
death,  depicts  her  as  “a  comely,  grave 
Woman,  and  of  a  goodly  Personage,  and 
one  of  good  Report,  having  a  Husband  of 
an  Estate,  fearing  the  Lord,  and  a  Mother 
of  Children.”  Governor  Winthrop  himself 
admitted  that  she  was  “a  very  proper  and 
fair  woman”  although  he  also  said  that  she 
was  “notoriously  infected  with  Mrs.  Hutch¬ 
inson’s  errors,  and  very  censorious  and 
troublesome,  she  being  of  a  very  proud 
spirit  and  much  addicted  to  revelations.” 
From  the  opinions  of  the  time  it  appears 
that  it  was  actually  her  superior  education 
and  outstanding  intelligence  which  formed 
a  great  basis  for  the  jealousy,  disfavor,  and 
persecution  which  the  members  of  the 
Puritan  Church — and,  in  particular,  its 
ministers — vented  upon  her. 

Upon  the  arrival  of  the  Dyers  in  Boston, 
they  were  immediately  admitted  to  mem¬ 
bership  in  the  Boston  church  of  which 
John  Wilson  was  the  pastor  and  John  Cot¬ 
ton  the  teacher.  When  Mrs.  Hutchinson  be¬ 
gan  her  meetings  the  following  year,  the 
Dyers  became  her  intimate  friends  and 
followers.  Shortly  before  the  excommuni¬ 
cation  of  Mrs.  Hutchinson,  the  Rev.  Mr. 
Wheelright  had  been  condemned  for  his  ad¬ 
herence  to  the  principles  of  Antinomian- 
ism,  the  act  causing  a  written  protest  to  be 
drawn  up  and  presented  to  the  Elders  who 
had  judged  him.  Inasmuch  as  William 
Dyer  was  one  of  the  signers  of  this  protest, 

he  was  disarmed  and  disfranchised.  Conse¬ 
quently  it  was  not  at  all  strange  that  when 
the  Hutchinsons  went  into  exile  the  Dyers 
should  have  gone  with  them.  They  came  to 
Rhode  Island  and  were  among  the  founders, 
eighteen  in  number,  of  the  town  of  Ports¬ 
mouth,  and  later  among  the  eight  founders 
of  Newport. 

It  was  shortly  before  she  left  the  Massa¬ 
chusetts  Colony  that  Mary  Dyer  was  forced 
to  listen  to  a  foolish  rumor  spread  in 
Boston  by  her  enemies.  They  circulated 
the  story  that  she  had  given  birth  to  a  mon¬ 
ster  which  they  said  was  a  sign  of  divine 
retribution  for  her  faith  in  Anne  Hutchin¬ 
son.  That  stories  of  this  sort  could  even 
be  started  is  a  biting  testimony  of  the  ignor¬ 
ance  and  stupidity  of  those  who  were  later 
to  kill  the  woman  whose  intelligence  they 

As  inhabitants  of  Rhode  Island  the 
Dyers  were  well  received.  William  Dyer 
was  made  Clerk  of  Rhode  Island  in  1638, 
and  two  years  later  Secretary  of  Portsmouth 
and  Newport,  holding  the  latter  office  for 
seven  years.  In  the  course  of  his  life  he 
held  many  other  prominent  offices  in  the 
Colony,  including  that  of  Attorney-General. 
With  his  family  he  began  the  steady  and 
regular  life  of  a  sound  and  well-respected 
townsman.  Mary  Dyer  was  a  good  mother 
just  as  she  was  a  zealous  friend  and  raised 
her  six  children  well. 

In  1652,  William  Dyer  accompanied 
John  Clarke  and  Roger  Williams  to  Eng¬ 
land  to  obtain  a  revocation  of  the  extra¬ 
ordinary  powers  once  granted  to  William 
Coddington.  Mary  Dyer  went  with  her  hus¬ 
band  but  did  not  return  to  Rhode  Island  with 
him  the  following  year.  For  five  years  she 
remained  in  England  and  during  that  time 
became  a  Quaker. 

In  the  meantime  the  Boston  Colony  had 
been  invaded  by  the  Quakers  and  was  fairly 
seething  with  fury  against  them.  And  yet, 
it  was  not  the  Boston  Colony  as  a  whole 
which  so  violently  opposed  the  entrance  of 
this  sect  in  its  midst,  but  rather  the  few 
magistrates  and  clergymen  who  saw  in  the 
newcomers  a  menace  to  the  religious  and 
political  dictatorship  they  had  enjoyed.  It 
must  be  remembered  that  when  the  Puri¬ 
tans  broke  from  England,  crying  that  they 
wanted  to  be  free  to  worship  as  they  pleased, 



they  did  not  mean  that  they  believed  in  in¬ 
dividual  beliefs  and  worship.  On  the  con¬ 
trary,  upon  founding  their  colonies  in  New 
England,  they  became  as  despotic  in  their 
interpretation  of  what  religion  should  be 
as  the  Church  of  England  had  been  before 
them.  It  was  an  instance  where  the  dictator¬ 
ship  of  princes  had  been  exchanged  for  that 
of  bigoted  clergymen. 

So  great  was  the  hatred  for  the  simple, 
truth-seeking  Quakers  that  a  law  was 
passed  which  imposed  a  fine  upon  any  sea 
captain  who  brought  them  into  Boston. 
Under  this  law  Quakers  who  did  come  into 
the  Colony  were  to  be  thrown  in  the 
house  of  correction,  whipped,  and  placed  at 
hard  labor.  Strangely  enough,  among  the 
first  Quakers  to  arrive  after  the  passage  of 
such  a  brutal  law  were  Ann  Burden  and 
Mary  Dyer. 

Both  were  immediately  thrown  into 
prison,  and  only  when  her  husband  came 
for  her  was  Mary  Dyer  released.  Even 
then  he  was  ordered  to  take  her  out  of  the 
Colony  at  once  and  to  allow  her  to  speak 
to  no  one  on  the  way.  The  next  arrivals 
did  not  have  such  an  easy  fate.  They  were 
whipped,  imprisoned,  fined,  and  finally 
banished.  One  woman,  Margaret  Brewster, 
was  stripped  to  the  waist  and  dragged 
through  the  streets  of  Boston  tied  to  a  cart, 
with  a  whipping  afterwards  for  good 
measure.  Laws  were  enacted  by  which 
Quakers  could  be  punished  by  cutting  off 
their  ears  or  boring  a  hole  through  their 
tongues  with  a  red-hot  iron.  A  final  de¬ 
cree,  however,  stated  that  any  Quaker  who 
returned  to  the  Boston  Colony  after  once 
having  been  banished  would  suffer  the 
death  penalty. 

This  would  seem  to  deter  all  Quakers 
from  entering  the  forbidden  territory.  Yet, 
in  1659,  in  protest  against  the  authorities 
who  had  conceived  such  cruel  laws,  Wil¬ 
liam  Robinson  and  Marmaduke  Stevenson 
went  to  Boston.  They  were  thrown  into 
prison  at  once.  Mary  Dyer,  hearing  of 
their  plight,  came  to  Boston  to  visit  them 
and  was  also  imprisoned.  For  three  months 
these  three  remained  in  jail  and  then  were 
tried  and  ordered  to  leave  the  Colony  within 
two  days.  Mary  Dyer  returned  to  Rhode 
Island,  but  the  two  men  decided  to  stay 
within  the  Colony  and  test  the  bloody  laws 

unto  the  death.  Other  Quakers  began  to 
swarm  into  the  Colony  and  with  them  came 
Mary  Dyer  again.  Robinson  and  Stevenson 
who  had  not  left  when  banished  were 
seized  with  her,  and  in  a  few  days  the  three 
were  sentenced  to  death  by  hanging. 

It  was  in  October,  1659,  that  they  were 
taken  to  the  Boston  Common  where  the 
rope  was  already  strung  from  a  great  elm 
near  the  Frog  Pond.  So  great  had  been 
the  force  of  public  opinion  against  the  pro¬ 
cedure  that  the  magistrates  had  provided  a 
force  of  militia  to  quell  any  disturbance 
or  attempt  at  rescue.  Arm  in  arm  with  the 
two  younger  men  Mary  Dyer  went  to  her 
executioners,  with  no  fear  in  her  eyes  but 
the  calm  smile  of  a  martyr  lighting  her 
face.  The  other  two  were  hanged  before 
her  eyes  and  she,  herself,  with  the  rope 
about  her  neck,  had  ascended  the  ladder, 
when  the  magistrates  announced  her  re¬ 
prieve.  They  had  suffered  her  to  undergo 
all  the  terrors  of  death  merely  as  a  warn¬ 
ing.  Their  heartless  treatment  had  only 
prepared  Mrs.  Dyer  for  death  and  she  did 
not  wish  her  life.  Yet  once  again  she  was 
sent  out  of  the  Colony. 

After  she  was  out  of  the  State  the  Boston 
magistrates  used  her  case  to  soften  the  pub¬ 
lic  opinion  which  had  arisen  against  them 
because  of  the  other  two  hangings.  Then 
it  was  that  Mary  Dyer  realized  that  be¬ 
cause  of  her,  the  death  of  her  fellow  mar¬ 
tyrs  would  have  no  lasting  influence,  and 
she  solemnly  made  her  way  back  to  Boston. 
Once  again  she  appeared  before  Governor 
Endicott  and  the  church  officials,  calm  and 
undaunted.  Once  again  she  received  the 
sentence  of  death,  and  this  time  there  was 
no  reprieve.  Even  the  pleading  of  her  hus¬ 
band,  himself  not  a  Quaker,  had  no  effect. 

In  the  month  of  June,  1660,  Mary  Dyer 
went  to  join  Robinson  and  Stevenson  in  the 
Great  Beyond.  Her  body  was  buried  on 
Boston  Common,  but  its  location  is  un¬ 
known.  Thus  died  Mary  Dyer,  the  Quaker 
martyr  of  Rhode  Island,  friend  of  Anne 
Hutchinson.  Her  death  was  not  in  vain,  for 
it  paid  the  price  of  the  Quakers’  freedom 
from  persecution. 

The  terrible  story  was  soon  carried  to  the 
King  of  England  and,  though  one  other 
Quaker,  William  Leddra,  was  hanged  be¬ 
fore  he  could  act,  he  put  an  immediate  end 
to  such  cruel  proceedings  in  Massachusetts. 




An  old  house  stands  off  the  “Great  Post 
Road”  about  thirteen  miles  north  of 
Narragansett  Pier,  in  Wickford,  and  a  neat¬ 
ly  lettered  sign  at  each  of  the  two  entrances 
to  the  grounds  indicates  the  approach  to 
the  mansion  “Cocumcussoc” .  The  genial 
master  of  the  house  says  that  the  word 
looks  and  sounds  both  like  a  welcome  to 
the  visitor  and  an  urge  to  his  profanity, 
but  that  is  misleading.  The  name  is  merely 

It  is  recorded  that  in  the  exodus  of  dis¬ 
affected  children  who  fled  from  their  moth¬ 
er  country’s  arms  in  the  reign  of  Charles 
the  First,  was  one  Richard  Smith,  a  well- 
to-do  gentleman,  and  a  man  of  courage  and 
enterprise.  Leaving  England  in  1637,  he 
soon  afterward  erected,  here  in  the  heart 
of  the  Narragansett  Country,  the  first  white 
man’s  house.  Here  he  lived  with  his  family 
and  here  for  a  long  time  he  engaged  in 
trading  with  the  savages.  At  one  time  his 
estate  covered  27  square  miles,  and  was 
known  for  many  years  as  the  Richard  Smith 
Blockhouse.  “Smith’s  Castle”  was  another 
name  for  the  house. 

Because  of  religious  persecution,  Rich¬ 
ard  Smith  left  England  and  came  to  this 
country,  and  his  son  doubtless  felt  a  similar 
rebellion  against  the  Royal  tyranny,  for 
later  on  we  read  that  Major  Richard  Smith, 
Jr.,  served  as  a  Major  under  Oliver  Crom¬ 

The  Smiths’  first  neighbor  would  seem  to 
have  been  Roger  Williams,  for  after  Rich¬ 
ard  had  built  his  home  and  established  his 
trading-post  in  it,  Williams  built  a  trading- 
station  nearby.  The  inmates  of  the  block¬ 
house  and  their  white  neighbors  must  have 
enjoyed  some  measure  of  comfort  and  con¬ 
tentment  when  at  peace  with  the  Indians. 
Bacon  says  that  “It  was  no  unusual  thing 
to  hang  upon  the  spit  a  quarter  of  a  lamb  or 
a  haunch  of  venison  at  the  same  time  that 
turkeys,  ducks  and  fowl  were  being  roasted. 

“The  fireplaces  in  which  such  cooking 
was  done  were  enormous.  The  logs  were 
hauled  in  cord  lengths  and  rested  upon 
great  andirons  that  would  alone  fill  a  mod¬ 
ern  fireplace.” 

One  fireplace  typical  of  the  17th  century 
is  to  be  seen  in  a  quaint  room  of  the  old 
house  now.  The  present  owner,  wishing  to 
bring  the  original  hearth  to  light — for  it 
had  long  been  closed — set  men  at  unbrick¬ 
ing  it.  They  opened  a  fireplace,  but  it  was 
not  the  original  fireplace,  for  a  second  one, 
back  of  the  first,  was  revealed.  Back  of  the 
second  they  found  still  a  third  hearth — pre¬ 
sumably  the  old,  original  one  about  which 
hang  several  gruesome  stories. 

Besides  the  material  comforts  the  in¬ 
mates  of  the  blockhouse  had  spiritual  com¬ 
fort  as  well,  for  it  is  said  that  Roger  Wil¬ 
liams  habit  was  to  go  to  Cocumcussoc 
monthly  when  it  was  in  any  way  possible, 
where  he  held  religious  meetings.  This  cus¬ 
tom  he  kept  up  nearly  to  the  close  of  his 
consecrated  life. 

But  presently,  at  Cocumcussoc,  the  peace¬ 
ful  days  of  trading  and  cheesemaking  were 
interrupted,  for  the  fire  long  smouldering 
had  burst  into  flames,  and  there  was  trouble 
with  the  Indians.  Of  the  time  preceding 
the  actual  hostilities  “Honest  John  Easton” 
said:  “So  the  English  were  afraid,  and 
Philip  was  afraid,  and  both  increased  in 

Williams  had  long  been  back  in  this 
country  when  the  war  broke  out,  but  even 
he,  who  had  been  charged  with  loving  the 
red  men  better  than  he  did  his  white  broth¬ 
ers,  could  not  stay  their  rage.  The  torch 
and  the  tomahawk  avenged  the  alleged 
wrongs  of  the  Indians,  while  with  the 
Whites  their  motto  was  “An  eye  for  an  eye, 
and  a  tooth  for  a  tooth.” 

Here  in  the  blockhouse  of  Richard 
Smith,  on  a  bitter  December  night  in  the 
year  1675,  gathered  the  Massachusetts  and 
Connecticut  forces  preparatory  to  “The 
Great  Swamp  Fight.”  Here  the  Rhode 
Island  volunteers  joined  them,  and  from 
this  house  they  all  set  out  to  that  dreadful 
conflict  in  the  frozen  swamp  in  which  the 
“power  of  the  Narragansetts  was  forever 
broken.”  The  details  of  that  conflict  would 
make  another  story,  but,  suffice  to  say  that 
a  large  number  of  the  red  men  perished 
with  their  squaws  and  their  papooses,  many 



were  taken  prisoners  and  their  well  en¬ 
trenched  fort  with  their  grain  and  supplies 
of  every  nature  was  burned.  The  white  vic¬ 
tors  marched  back  many  miles  that  dread¬ 
ful  night  by  the  light  of  the  conflagration 
they  had  kindled,  and  of  this  victory  Dr. 
Increase  Mather  said:  “There  were  two  and 
seventy  Indian  Captains  slain,  all  of  them, 
and  brought  down  to  Hell  in  one  day.” 

It  is  recorded  that  68  of  the  English  fell 
and  that  150  were  wounded. 

When  visiting  the  old,  historic  house,  one 
must  not  fail  to  walk  over  the  sunny  lawns 
to  nearly  the  water’s  edge  to  the  boulder 
that  marks  the  common  grave  of  forty  of 
the  men  who  marched  out  so  bravely  from 
the  blockhouse  that  bitter  night  nearly 
three  centuries  ago — one  of  them  a  son  of 
the  house.  A  tablet  on  the  boulder  reads: 

Here  Were  Buried 
in  One  Grave 
Forty  Men 

Who  Died  in  the  Swamp  Fight 
or  on  the  Return  March 

Richard  Smith’s  Blockhouse 
December  1675 

Kimball  says  that  “Shortly  after  this 
fight  the  troops  of  the  united  colonies  were 
withdrawn  from  the  Narragansett  Country, 
leaving  a  garrison  of  70  men  in  the  block¬ 
house  ....  Their  stay  was  of  brief  duration. 
The  Council  at  Boston  decided  on  their 
withdrawal,  and  a  letter  written  at  Boston, 
in  the  following  July,  narrates  that  the  very 
next  day  after  their  departure  the  Indians 
came  and  burned  the  said  Garrison-house.” 

This  was  probably  in  the  year  following 
the  Swamp  Fight,  which  occurred  at  the 
close  of  1675.  The  old  house,  then,  was 
burned  in  1676,  but  it  is  said  that  the  dam¬ 
age  was  not  great  and  that  it  was  quickly 
repaired.  They  used  the  old  timber — the 
great  horizontal  beam  of  oak  over  the  pres¬ 
ent  fireplace  of  sinister  associations  is  the 
original  lintel — and  the  house  was  made 
somewhat  larger  with  material  from  the 
old  trading-station  which  Mr.  Williams  had 
sold  to  Richard  Smith. 

Smith  and  his  family  had  fled  to  New 
Amsterdam  after  their  home  was  burned, 
remaining  there  until  the  Indian  troubles 
were  quieted,  and  it  was  prudent  to  rebuild. 

And  now  romance  lightens  the  temporary 

exile,  for  Dr.  Gysbert  op  Dyck  (“Updike” 
now)  married  a  daughter  of  Richard  Smith, 
and  the  old,  rebuilt  house  in  Wickford 
eventually  became  the  “Updike”  house. 
The  date  of  the  erection  of  the  present  man¬ 
sion  was  sometime  in  1677. 

Longfellow  has  said  that:  “All  houses 
wherein  men  have  lived  and  died  are 
haunted  houses,”  and  if  that  be  so  one  cer¬ 
tainly  feels  a  thrill  on  recalling  some  of 
the  legends  connected  with  this  house.  For 
Bacon  says:  “At  the  time  of  King  Philip’s 
War,  tradition  tells  us  that  a  band  of  set¬ 
tlers,  inflamed  with  the  smell  of  ‘villainous 
saltpetre’  and  blood  and  perhaps  somewhat 
exhilarated  by  a  fluid  then  much  valued  by 
good  New  Englanders,  arrived  at  Smith’s 
blockhouse  with  Indian  prisoners.  Having 
tied  these  captives  to  chairs,  the  doughty 
men  of  Massachusetts  still  further  refreshed 
themselves  with  some  of  the  trader’s  pri¬ 
vate  stock  and  soon  became  delightfully 
mellow.  It  is  well  understood  that  to  make 
a  Puritan  New  Englander  convivial  some¬ 
thing  out  of  the  ordinary  was  required,  and 
we  must  believe  that  the  potations  were 
long  and  deep,  for  a  vein  of  rare  pleasantry 
was  developed  among  its  members.  Even 
in  his  mirth,  however,  the  Puritan  was  not 
as  other  men,  and  there  was  a  dreadful 
grimness  in  his  pleasantry.  It  happened  at 
last  that  one  of  the  Indian  fighters  in  the 
course  of  the  carousing  hilariously  struck 
off  a  captive’s  head  with  his  sword.  As  the 
gory  ball  rolled  away  it  struck  a  tall  clock 
in  the  corner  and  the  sensitive  timepiece, 
unable  to  contain  itself,  struck  one.” 

But  today  the  pleasant  rooms  suggest 
none  of  these  horrors.  The  sun  shines 
through  the  narrow  windows  with  their 
wooden  shutters  on  to  rows  and  rows  of 
enticing  books,  and  through  the  casements 
one  glimpses  the  shining  waters  of  the  bay 
and  hears,  on  the  lawn,  the  voices  of  laugh¬ 
ing  children. 

One  of  the  great  rooms  has  a  flood  tradi¬ 
tion  of  some  baby  in  its  cradle  being  lifted 
by  the  encroaching  waters  nearly  to  the 
ceiling,  from  which  precarious  situation  it 
was  happily  rescued. 

Wilkins  Updike  roamed  through  these 
pleasant  rooms  in  his  happy  childhood. 
His  mother,  Mrs.  Ludovick  Updike,  was  an 
aunt  of  the  “unfortunate  Hannah  Robin¬ 
son,”  and  it  was  to  a  great  ball,  given  at 



Cocumcussoc  that  Hannah  ostensibly  set 
out,  on  the  night  of  her  elopement.  The 
mansion,  even  then  a  century  old,  must 
have  been  a  beautiful  sight  with  its  many 
lights  shining  out  over  the  waters  beyond 
the  lawn,  and  no  doubt  the  music  sounded 
while  the  guests  from  Boston,  Providence 
and  Newport  danced  merrily  —  “Pea 
Straw,”  “Lady  Hancock”  and  “Boston  De¬ 
light” — until,  perhaps,  the  whisper  spread 
that  “The  most  beautiful  girl  in  the  Amer¬ 
ican  Colonies”  had  mysteriously  failed  to 
join  them. 

Young  Wilkins  Updike  was  the  great, 
great,  great  grandson  of  that  Richard  Smith 
whose  daughter  had  married  Gysbert  op 
Dyck  so  long  ago.  The  child  must  have 
often  heard  his  parents  tell  of  the  distin¬ 
guished  guests  who  had  sat  around  his  fore¬ 
bears’  table,  for  it  is  said  that  for  many, 
many  generations  few  travellers  of  quality 
failed  to  leave  the  “Great  Post  Road”  and 
turn  into  the  hospitable  gates  of  Cocum¬ 

We  know  that  Roger  Williams  was  the 
first  of  these  great  guests,  and,  later  on,  by 
that  blazing  hearth  and  at  that  groaning 

table,  gathered  such  men  as  Benjamin 
Franklin,  Lafayette,  the  gentle  painter, 
Smibert,  and  Bishop  Seabury.  Dean  Berk¬ 
eley,  of  England  and  Newport,  was  the 
valued  friend  of  Wilkins  Updike’s  grand¬ 
father,  and  often  there  came  the  portly  and 
beloved  minister  Dr.  MacSparran  with  his 
beautiful  wife  Hannah,  who  was  Mrs. 
Updike’s  aunt. 

Wilkins  Updike  dearly  loved  the  ancient 
home  of  his  ancestors,  and  it  was  arranged 
that  although  he  was  the  youngest  son  of 
the  house  it  should  be  his.  He  grew  to  be 
a  distinguished  lawyer,  a  power  in  his  State, 
a  force  for  good,  and,  for  a  few  years  after 
his  marriage,  he  was  happy  in  the  old 
“Castle”  with  his  wife  and  children.  Then, 
having  lent  his  name  to  a  brother  as  secur¬ 
ity  in  a  business  venture,  and  the  business 
having  failed,  Wilkins  was  obliged  to  give 
up  his  idolized  home  to  meet  the  brother’s 
obligations.  It  is  said  that  Mr.  Wilkins 
could  never,  thereafter,  bear  to  speak  of  or 
to  look  upon  the  beloved  spot  and  that  he 
passed  the  remainder  of  his  honorable,  hos¬ 
pitable  life  at  “Little  Rest,”  or  “Kingston 
Hill,”  as  it  is  called  now. 


Though  Roger  Williams  will  always  be 
hailed  as  the  foremost  champion  of  civil 
and  religious  liberty  in  the  days  following 
his  settlement  of  Providence,  another  vig¬ 
orous  opponent  of  Puritanism,  almost  for¬ 
gotten  now  or,  at  best,  much  maligned,  had 
a  full  share  in  the  solid  establishment  of 
Rhode  Island  as  an  independent  and  liberal 
Colony.  Unlike  William  Blackstone,  who 
was  content  to  pursue  his  theology  and  phil¬ 
osophy  as  a  recluse,  Samuel  Gorton  brought 
to  his  ideals  a  militant  spirit,  and  spent  his 
life  waging  a  constant  fight  against  those 
who  were  doing  their  best  to  undermine  and 
disrupt  the  Rhode  Island  Colony.  This 
“noble-minded  patriot  and  thinker”  had  a 
“character  for  truth  and  honesty,  for  moral¬ 
ity,  for  courtesy  to  all  and  for  Christian 
charity.”  He  had  a  great  love  of  soul  liberty 
with  a  hatred  of  all  shams,  and  was  feared 
by  all  religious  hypocrites  and  tyrannical 

civil  magistrates  alike,  not  only  for  his 
dauntless  spirit,  but  for  his  natural  intelli¬ 
gence  and  his  great  learning,  in  which  re¬ 
spect  he  truly  ranked  among  the  first  in  all 
the  Colonies.  In  personal  appearance  he  was 
a  man  of  tall  stature,  with  blue  eyes,  marked 
features  and  fair  hair — a  typical  Saxon. 

Samuel  Gorton  was  born  in  1592  in  the 
town  of  Gorton,  then  adjoining  but  now 
included  within  the  city  of  Manchester,  Eng¬ 
land.  In  this  place,  where  generations  of  his 
forefathers  had  lived,  he  grew  up  and  re¬ 
ceived  his  early  education.  Gorton’s  reli¬ 
gious  training  was  gained  in  the  English 
Church,  but  his  full  classical  and  legal  edu¬ 
cation  he  received  at  the  hands  of  very  com¬ 
petent  tutors.  In  law  and  politics  perhaps 
he  understood  his  rights  better  than  did 
Roger  Williams,  or  the  proprietors,  or  the 
elders  or  magistrates  of  the  Massachusetts 
Colony.  He  did  not  leave  home  until  the 
age  of  about  twenty-five  or  thirty,  being 



engaged  in  study  up  to  that  time  but  in  1635 
he  was  in  business  as  a  clothier  in  London. 
His  father,  also,  had  been  a  merchant  in 
London  and  had  amassed  a  considerable 
fortune,  a  fact  which  probably  accounted 
for  Gorton’s  source  of  private  wealth  while 
in  the  Colonies. 

In  1636,  Gorton  left  England  for  New 
England,  bringing  with  him  his  wife,  “a 
lady  of  education  and  refinement”  and  “as 
tenderly  brought  up  as  any  man’s  wife  in  the 
town.”  Through  her  family,  who  had  always 
provided  their  daughter  with  luxuries  of 
every  nature  during  her  childhood,  Gorton 
came  into  the  possession  of  some  choice 
herds  of  pure-bred  cattle  sent  by  them  to  fill 
the  stalls  of  her  New  England  home.  Like 
others  who  journeyed  to  the  New  Country 
to  escape  persecution  in  England,  he  was 
sadly  disappointed  to  find  that  the  rulers  of 
the  new  Colonies  had  set  up  a  church  gov¬ 
ernment  as  austere  as  that  of  England. 
Those  in  the  New  England  Colonies  at 
Massachusetts  Bay  and  Plymouth  who  did 
not  conform  to  authority  were  disfranchised 
as  citizens.  Gorton’s  arrival  was  at  the  time 
of  the  proceedings  against  Wheelright,  the 
brother-in-law  of  Anne  Hutchinson.  By 
avoiding  the  attention  of  the  magistrates, 
Gorton  obtained  a  brief  respite  after  his  sea 
voyage,  but,  within  two  months,  he  moved 
from  Boston  to  Plymouth,  intending  to 
make  the  latter  place  his  home. 

He  was  banished  from  Plymouth,  how¬ 
ever,  in  1638,  the  occasion  being  his  defense 
of  one  of  his  maid  servants,  after  she  had 
been  found  guilty  of  smiling  in  church.  The 
decree  of  the  Massachusetts  magistrates  did 
not  find  favor  with  the  people,  but  they  had 
been  too  long  accustomed  to  oppression  in 
England  to  resist  any  show  of  authority, 
such  as  that  exhibited  by  Governor  Prence 
in  dealing  with  Gorton’s  case.  Gorton  with 
his  family  left  Plymouth  in  the  dead  of  win¬ 
ter  and  went  to  the  northern  part  of  the 
island  of  Aquidneck,  joining  the  Hutchin- 
sons  (just  previously  banished)  at  the  set¬ 
tlement  of  Pocasset,  known  now  as  Ports¬ 

With  his  arrival,  the  factions  of  Anne 
Hutchinson  and  William  Coddington,  al¬ 
ready  embittered  with  rivalry,  became  worse 
enemies.  Gorton  aided  the  settlers  in  Pocas¬ 
set  in  the  drawing  up  of  the  necessary  arti¬ 
cles  for  local  government,  and  then,  in  a 

later  series  of  severe  controversies  with  Cod¬ 
dington,  denounced  the  latter  and  his  fol¬ 
lowers  heartily  for  attempting  to  set  up  a 
government  upon  the  island  without  a  char¬ 
ter.  He  could  not  hold  out  against  Codding¬ 
ton  for  long,  because  of  the  number  of  the 
latter’s  adherents,  and,  in  1641,  went  to 

At  Providence,  Roger  Williams  was  hav¬ 
ing  a  great  deal  of  difficulty  with  a  faction 
headed  by  William  and  Benedict  Arnold, 
Massachusetts  agents,  who  had  settled  in  the 
vicinity  of  the  Pawtuxet  River.  Conse¬ 
quently,  with  his  reputation  for  attacks 
upon  unchartered  government,  Gorton  was 
not  well-received.  As  an  eccentric,  he  was 
more  feared  by  the  Arnolds  than  Williams 
himself.  After  a  great  deal  of  trouble,  Prov¬ 
idence  split  into  three  factions,  headed  re¬ 
spectively  by  the  Arnolds,  Roger  Williams, 
and  Samuel  Gorton.  The  first  of  these  three 
seceded  from  Providence  in  1642  and  sub¬ 
mitted  themselves  to  the  authority  of  the 
Massachusetts  Colony.  Gorton,  countering 
this  decidedly  hostile  move,  joined  with 
some  others  in  purchasing  a  section  of  land 
in  the  vicinity  of  Warwick  from  Mianta- 
nomi,  and  moved  there  in  1643.  Here,  on  the 
shores  of  this  new  territory  which  they 
called  Shawomet,  the  Gortonoges  began  to 
build  and  plant.  After  continued  quarrel¬ 
ing  with  the  Arnolds,  located  just  to  the 
northward,  the  latter  complained  to  their 
adopted  rulers  of  Massachusetts,  who  imme¬ 
diately  summoned  the  Gortonoges  to  appear 
at  court  in  Boston.  Gorton’s  reply  was  char¬ 
acteristically  independent,  and  he  sent  a 
warrant  for  the  Arnolds  to  appear  in 

The  Massachusetts  authorities  saw  a 
splendid  chance  to  gain  a  foothold  in  Rhode 
Island  and  win  the  territory  for  themselves. 
Consequently  they  sent  a  band  of  soldiers 
to  Shawomet  to  capture  Gorton  and  his  fol¬ 
lowers.  They  claimed  that  the  Indians  who 
had  deeded  the  land  to  Gorton  were  not  sub¬ 
ject  to  Miantanomi  but  to  the  Massachusetts 
Colony,  and  that  Gorton  was  an  usurper. 
The  soldiery,  by  violating  a  truce  in  a  brief 
skirmish  at  Shawomet,  captured  Gorton  and 
his  fellows  and  took  them  in  triumph  to 
Boston.  All  their  land  was  confiscated  and 
their  families  had  to  flee  to  friends  in  Prov¬ 
idence  and  Portsmouth  for  refuge.  But  the 
religious  leaders  and  magistrates  of  Massa- 



chusetts  were  not  able  to  keep  Gorton  long 
in  confinement.  Too  many  people  were  in 
sympathy  with  him,  and  he  succeeded  in 
preaching  his  liberal  doctrines  from  the 
confines  of  his  jail.  In  a  few  months,  there¬ 
fore,  Gorton  and  his  followers  were  set  free 
but  told  to  get  out  of  Massachusetts  within 
two  days. 

They  returned  to  Portsmouth.  In  the 
meantime  Roger  Williams  had  secured  a 
charter  for  the  “Providence  Plantations”  in 
1643,  and  when  the  Gortons  arrived  at  the 
island  of  Aquidneck,  they  appointed  com¬ 
missioners  to  act  under  the  charter.  But 
Coddington  was  still  a  thorn  in  the  side  of 
the  youthful  Colony.  He  persisted  in  trying 
to  maintain  his  government  as  before,  con¬ 
stantly  being  a  party  to  intrigue  with  the 
Massachusetts  Bay  and  Plymouth  Colonies. 
To  combat  this  insubordination,  Gorton  ob¬ 
tained  the  submission  of  the  Narragansett 
sachems  to  the  English  crown,  and,  in  1645, 
armed  with  this  and  his  own  powerful  per¬ 
sonality,  set  out  for  England  to  take  up  the 
Rhode  Island  cause  against  the  continued 
aggressive  policies  of  the  Massachusetts  Col¬ 
onies,  and  to  gain  a  more  solid  backing  for 
the  new  charter  of  Roger  Williams.  So  much 
was  he  feared  because  of  his  great  learning 
and  ability,  that  Winslow,  a  former  gover¬ 
nor  of  Massachusetts,  was  sent  to  England 
to  attempt  to  nullify  all  his  efforts.  Gorton 
returned  to  Rhode  Island  triumphant,  how¬ 
ever,  having  completely  won  his  case.  Rhode 
Island  was  thus  brought  safely  through  her 
first  critical  period. 

Shortly  after  Gorton’s  return  to  Rhode 
Island,  Coddington,  who  had  tried  to  usurp 
the  power  in  Rhode  Island,  was  deposed  and 
had  to  flee  in  disgrace.  But  there  were  many 
other  uprisings  before  order  was  finally 
established  in  Providence  and  the  charter 
became  secure.  Massachusetts  was  not  one 
to  be  easily  defeated  in  her  desires,  and 
again,  in  1676,  the  question  of  the  Arnolds 
and  the  Pawtuxans  arose.  Gorton  and  some 
of  his  adherents  were  again  chosen  to  go  to 
England  to  petition  the  King  and  argue 
against  envoys  sent  by  Massachusetts. 
After  a  long  and  anxious  interval,  the  Gor- 
tonoges  were  successful  once  more.  The 
King  declared  the  Massachusetts  charter 
which  named  the  Pawtuxet  and  Shawomet 
sections  as  its  property  void.  This  was  the 
crushing  blow  for  all  Massachusetts  aspi¬ 
rations,  and  the  triumph  of  Gorton  and 
his  followers  was  complete.  Rhode  Island 
truly  owes  them  a  great  debt. 

Throughout  his  life  Gorton,  despite  his 
reputation  as  a  very  independent  thinker 
and  radical,  was  constantly  in  public  office, 
serving  many  years  in  the  General  Assembly 
and  in  many  other  capacities.  He  was  a  true 
friend  of  the  Quakers  as  opposed  to  Roger 
Williams,  although  he  shared  the  latter’s 
great  friendship  with  the  Indians.  When  he 
died,  in  1677,  Rhode  Island  lost  a  staunch 
son,  a  man  of  fearless  integrity,  and  an 
invaluable  defender.  His  last  days  were 
passed  in  his  beloved  Shawomet  (now  East 
Greenwich)  near  the  shores  of  Narragan¬ 
sett  Bay. 


A  DOLEFUL,  great,  naked,  dirty  beast,” 
said  Benjamin  Church  of  King  Philip, 
looking  at  the  body  of  the  fallen  chieftain 
as  it  lay  bedraggled  and  muddy  in  the 
Mount  Hope  swamp.  It  was  evident  that  he 
had  little  admiration  for  the  warrior  whose 
desperate  last  stand  against  his  hated  ene¬ 
mies,  the  white  men,  had  been  the  cause  of 
long  months  of  the  most  ferocious  and 
bloody  warfare  in  the  entire  colonial  his¬ 
tory  of  New  England.  Indian  warfare  has 

always  been  of  the  bloodiest  sort,  but  dis¬ 
counting  its  characteristic  atrocities  (which 
seem  to  have  been  matched  in  times  past 
and  present  by  those  of  white  men  as  well ) 
we  of  the  present  are  more  inclined  to 
sympathize  with  the  pitiful  case  of  Philip, 
almost  hopeless  from  its  very  start.  Far 
enough  away  from  the  war  which  he  waged 
we  can  understand  its  inevitable  causes  and 
sense  its  true  proportions  much  better  than 
those  who  were  destined  to  suffer  through  it. 



Church,  despite  his  unique  understand¬ 
ing  of  the  Indian  character,  could  not  sym¬ 
pathize  with  the  last  mad  struggles  of  King 
Philip  as  the  Wampanoag,  beaten  in  battle 
and  broken  in  spirit,  tried  to  escape  his 
pursuers  and  fate.  To  our  minds,  Philip 
was  the  patriot  of  his  own  kind,  rising  in 
righteous  indignation  to  avenge  the  accumu¬ 
lated  wrongs  of  the  English  against  his 
tribe  and  fighting  with  all  a  patriot’s  fierce¬ 
ness  and  abandon. 

Yet  Benjamin  Church  was  no  mean  man. 
As  the  leading  Indian  fighter  of  his  day,  his 
mission  was  to  lead  a  force  to  capture  or 
kill  Philip,  a  mission  which  he  performed 
faithfully  and  efficiently.  And  his  words, 
spoken  over  the  body  of  his  fallen  foe,  if 
not  of  admiration,  were  at  least  without 
undue  malice. 

Church  was  born  in  Duxbury,  Massachu¬ 
setts,  in  1639,  his  father  having  been  one 
of  Governor  Winthrop’s  band  of  settlers 
and  a  carpenter  by  trade.  For  a  while  the 
former  continued  his  father’s  trade  success¬ 
fully  in  Duxbury,  but  in  1674,  a  few  years 
after  his  marriage  to  Alice  Southworth,  he 
was  induced  to  settle  in  what  is  now  Little 
Compton,  Rhode  Island.  Here  he  estab¬ 
lished  a  farm  near  the  East  Passage,  being 
the  first  Englishman  to  settle  in  that 

But  he  had  no  chance  to  develop  his  farm. 
In  the  following  spring  he  was  called  from 
Little  Compton  by  the  Plymouth  Colony 
when  the  threat  of  Indian  warfare  was  rap¬ 
idly  assuming  alarming  proportions.  The 
young  man  was  especially  fitted  to  be  a 
great  Indian  fighter.  He  was  “tall  and  well 
proportioned,  and  his  frame  was  well  knit, 
built  for  activity  and  endurance.  As  a  young 
man  he  was  exceedingly  active  and  vigor¬ 
ous,  characteristics  which  strongly  recom¬ 
mended  him  to  his  Indian  neighbors.  In  his 
residence  of  a  year  among  the  Indians,  he 
had  gained  a  thorough  knowledge  of  their 
character  and  had  acquired  a  great  influ¬ 
ence  among  them.”  With  his  desire  for 
glory  and  his  great  religious  convictions,  he 
was  fully  prepared  to  aid  the  Plymouth 

He  first  attended  the  war  dances  of  the 
Seaconnet  Indians,  where  he  found  the 
queen  sachem  Awashonks  leading  the  rites. 
Armed  delegates  from  the  Mount  Hope 
tribes  were  also  there,  and  more  than  once 

the  life  of  the  young  Englishman  hung  in 
the  balance,  as  the  dance-maddened  braves 
regarded  him  with  hostile  eyes.  Yet,  pay¬ 
ing  no  attention  to  the  dangers  of  his  own 
situation,  Church  argued  long  and  earnestly 
with  Awashonks,  finally  persuading  her  to 
submit  to  the  Plymouth  Colony.  Later,  on 
his  journey  back  to  Plymouth,  he  met  Weet- 
amoe,  queen  of  the  Pocassets,  and  won  her 
allegiance  as  well.  However,  despite  his  ef¬ 
forts,  war  was  begun  by  the  Wampanoags, 
and  the  Seaconnets  who  had  promised  him 
allegiance  were  drawn  into  the  conflict. 

All  through  the  weary  months  of  fighting 
in  which  the  Indians  were  at  first  success¬ 
ful,  Church  served  as  a  leader,  yet  his  wise 
counsel  was  frequently  disregarded  by  his 
associates.  Nevertheless  the  young  man  re¬ 
mained  loyal,  throwing  all  his  vigor  and 
keen  knowledge  of  Indian  warfare  into  the 
English  cause.  Meanwhile  the  war  spread 
like  a  prairie  fire  all  over  New  England.  Over 
six  hundred  of  the  best  of  the  English  fight¬ 
ing  men  were  killed,  and  settlement  after 
settlement  went  up  in  flames.  Even  the 
large  towns  like  Providence  did  not  escape 
the  peril.  But  gradually  the  tide  of  events 
turned.  The  Indians  began  to  suffer  defeats 
which  broke  up  their  determination  and 
scattered  their  power.  Canonchet,  the  son 
of  Miantanomi,  who  had  entered  the  war 
with  the  hope  of  avenging  his  father’s  death, 
was  killed.  The  battle  in  the  Bridgewater 
swamp  shattered  the  hopes  of  Philip  of  ever 
driving  out  the  white  men  from  the  land. 
And,  finally,  bands  of  the  Indians  them¬ 
selves  were  gradually  won  over  to  the  Eng¬ 
lish  side. 

Church  was  able  to  reconcile  Awashonks 
once  more  to  the  English,  and  won  the  aid 
of  some  140  of  her  braves.  His  capture  of 
Annawon  was  a  telling  blow  against 
Philip’s  forces,  and  his  own  intrepidity  and 
calculating  courage  made  him  more  and 
more  feared  by  the  red  men.  His  was  the 
final  blow  to  end  the  war,  for  he  led  the 
English  force  into  the  swamp  at  Mount 
Hope  and  drew  the  strings  of  the  net  from 
which  Philip  could  not  escape. 

Thus  Church  won  a  final  triumph.  His 
whole  partisanship  with  the  Plymouth  Col¬ 
ony  during  the  war  had  been  checkered, 
marred  by  constant  disagreements  and  petty 
jealousies  among  the  English  leaders.  But 
the  chastening  power  of  repeated  defeats 



had  made  his  opponents  give  him  the  com¬ 
mand  that  he  should  have  had  from  the 

At  the  beginning  of  the  war  Church  had 
sent  his  family  into  Rhode  Island  for  safety, 
and  it  was  here  that  he  joined  them  after 
the  death  of  Philip.  In  Bristol  he  settled 
down  in  the  height  of  his  fame,  building 
himself  a  house  on  the  north  side  of  Consti¬ 
tution  Street,  near  Thames  Street.  But  the 
last  remnant  of  this,  the  old  ruin  of  its 
chimney,  vine-covered,  is  long  since  gone. 

The  people  of  Bristol,  honoring  the  con¬ 
queror  of  Philip,  elected  Captain  Church 
to  many  town  offices,  thereby  insuring  the 
fulfillment  of  these  with  dispatch  and  hon¬ 
esty.  Church  also  was  sent  to  Plymouth  in 
1682  as  Bristol’s  first  deputy  to  the  General 

But  his  days  of  fighting  were  not  over. 
With  the  advent  of  what  was  known  as  King 
William’s  War  in  1689,  in  which  the  French 
and  Indians  were  the  main  aggressors  and 
Maine  the  seat  of  conflict,  Church  was 
made  a  Major  and  Commander-in-Chief  of 
an  expedition  into  Maine,  but  was  hampered 
by  a  lack  of  support  from  the  colonial  gov¬ 
ernments.  Massachusetts  was  involved  in 
its  affair  with  Sir  Edmond  Andros,  and  had 
little  interest  in  the  welfare  of  its  neighbor¬ 
ing  colony  to  the  north.  Church  was  called 
back  to  report  the  conditions  in  Maine  to 
the  Massachusetts  authorities,  yet  little 
heed  was  paid  to  his  representations.  Fin¬ 
ally,  after  the  threat  of  the  French  and 
Indians  had  grown  too  great,  Church  was 
again  sent  northward  with  a  force  of  250 
men.  Again  Massachusetts  withdrew  its  sup¬ 
port  after  the  men  were  in  the  field,  and 
Church,  thoroughly  disgusted,  had  to  dis¬ 
band  his  company. 

He  was  penniless  and  in  rags  when  he 
arrived  at  Boston,  but  the  authorities 
snubbed  him  completely,  paying  him  not  a 
cent  for  his  services.  He  was  forced  to  beg 
board  for  three  days  of  a  charitable  sloop 
master  and  borrowed  money  from  a  drover 
to  get  to  Rhode  Island.  Upon  his  arrival 
home  he  had  to  sell  some  of  his  lands  to 
pay  part  of  the  expenses  of  this  expedition. 
Still  he  went  to  the  aid  of  Massachusetts 
several  more  times,  leading  successful  ex¬ 
peditions  against  the  French  and  Indians. 
And  through  them  all  the  miserliness  of 
the  authorities  continued.  Only  long  after 
his  death  did  Massachusetts,  in  sorry  atone¬ 
ment,  grant  to  his  heirs  five  hundred  acres 
out  of  unappropriated  land  in  the  province. 

At  the  age  of  sixty-five  Church  retired 
from  military  life,  ending  a  glorious  career. 
He  had  never  been  defeated  or  even  re¬ 
pulsed  in  all  his  expeditions.  For  quite  a 
few  years  he  continued  to  live  with  his  fam¬ 
ily  at  Bristol,  and  several  of  his  children 
were  born  there.  However,  he  finally  went 
back  to  his  original  homestead  at  Little 
Compton.  Fortunately  his  vigor  in  times 
of  peace  as  well  as  in  war  had  been  the 
means  of  his  acquiring  enough  property  to 
avoid  any  poverty  during  his  declining 
years.  In  the  winter  of  1717-18  a  fall  from 
his  horse  was  responsible  for  his  death, 
which  occurred  on  January  17,  1718. 

The  old  Indian  fighter,  like  King  Philip, 
his  former  foe,  had  fought  adversity  and 
ill-feeling  throughout  his  whole  life,  never 
while  living  (except  in  Bristol)  attaining 
the  full  recognition  and  honor  he  deserved. 
Yet  when  men  came  to  think  of  him  after¬ 
ward,  they  remembered  keenly  his  constant 
patriotism,  his  high  sense  of  justice,  and 
his  calculated  courage. 


ONE  of  the  most  fascinating  and,  at  the 
same  time,  most  involved  branches 
of  history  is  that  which  comes  under  the 
heading  of  genealogy.  Nor  can  it  be  over¬ 
looked  by  any  historian  worthy  of  the 
name.  In  the  lives  of  many  a  prominent 
family  are  hidden  the  little  incidents,  the 
anecdotes,  the  quaint  and  homely  records, 
so  revealing  of  character  and  frequently 

so  humorous  in  the  light  of  later  standards 
and  customs.  Too  often  men  and  women, 
leaders  of  their  country,  state,  or  county, 
in  peace  or  war,  have  been  idolized  because 
of  one  or  two  outstanding  achievements, 
when  they  themselves  would  have  been  the 
first  to  protest  against  such  emulation.  It 
is  not  that  idolization  of  a  public  hero  is 
wrong.  Even  if  it  were,  the  very  force  of 



mass  enthusiasm,  once  a  hero  had  been 
chosen,  would  tend  to  increase  for  a  while 
like  a  rolling  snowball,  sweeping  the  vic¬ 
tim  of  favor  to  glory  just  as  inevitably  as, 
with  a  reversal  of  circumstances,  it  would 
carry  him  to  his  doom.  Once  established 
in  a  niche  of  fame,  a  vivid  personality  very 
often  becomes  crystallized  in  its  own  glory, 
remaining  inaccessible  to  the  humble  love 
of  the  multitudes  whose  inhibitions  and  in¬ 
tuitions  combine  to  hold  the  superman 
outside  the  circle  of  their  most  intimate 
affections.  Only  rarely,  when  some  gifted 
disciple,  probing  deeply  into  the  personal 
records  of  a  famous  man,  has  succeeded  in 
breaking  the  shell  of  his  superficial  glory 
and  making  him  human  again,  does  such 
a  liberated  hero  find  his  true  and  lasting 
niche  in  the  hearts  of  the  people. 

The  genealogy  of  many  Rhode  Island 
colonial  families  reveals  much  of  the 
early  life  and  customs  of  the  Colony.  The 
pioneer  industries,  the  great  farmlands, 
the  prejudices  and  beliefs,  the  little  bigot¬ 
ries  and  eccentricities — all  that  is  great 
and  much  that  is  small — is  faithfully,  and 
ofttimes  unconsciously,  disclosed.  Yet,  in¬ 
asmuch  as  it  would  require  a  volume  to 
record  even  one  family  tree,  it  is  only  pos¬ 
sible  in  this  story  to  touch  a  few  highlights 
in  the  history  of  the  descendants  of  one 
of  the  first  settlers  and  founders  of  New¬ 
port  and  consequently  of  Rhode  Island 

The  name,  Hazard,  can  be  traced  back  to 
the  Due  de  Charente  who  lived,  in  1060, 
near  the  borderland  of  Switzerland.  How 
the  name  came  to  be  changed  to  Hazard  is 
a  story  in  itself,  and  here  we  can  only  tell 
of  the  Hazards  of  Rhode  Island. 

Thomas  Hazard,  born  in  1610,  first  came 
to  Boston  in  1635,  but  within  four  years 
journeyed  south  to  Portsmouth,  Rhode 
Island,  becoming,  in  1639,  one  of  the  eight 
founders  of  Newport.  His  son,  Robert, 
moved  from  Newport  to  Kingston,  bought 
there  500  acres  of  land  and  proceeded  to 
build  himself  the  largest  house  in  the  town. 
That  he  succeeded  is  evident  for  a  doctor, 
while  visiting  the  family,  asked  if  the  oc¬ 
cupants  of  the  huge  house  had  some  means 
of  conveyance  to  carry  them  from  the  front 
to  the  rear  door.  The  chimney  in  the  spa¬ 
cious  ell  of  the  house  had  large  stone  seats 
on  the  inside,  and  here  the  slave  children 

used  to  sit.  The  owner  referred  to  his  man¬ 
sion  as  “my  manor  house.”  Three  genera¬ 
tions  of  Roberts  occupied  the  structure,  the 
third  going  by  the  name  of  “Roc”  Robert, 
an  appellation  arising  out  of  the  existence 
of  a  huge  rock  in  the  boundary  of  the 
estate.  The  estate  itself  was  divided  for  a 
time,  part  of  it  being  deeded  by  the  first 
Robert  to  his  brother  George,  who  later  ac¬ 
quired  the  remainder  from  Robert  the  third. 
In  all,  the  first  Robert  Hazard  had  owned 
over  a  thousand  acres  in  the  Colony,  scat¬ 
tered  about  in  Tiverton,  Newtown,  Point 
Judith,  and  Kingston,  but  the  home  estate 
itself  was  the  first  piece  of  property  to  pass 
out  of  the  family,  it  being  sold  to  a  John 
Rose  after  60  years  of  Hazard  ownership. 

In  the  obituary  of  Mary  Hazard,  the 
widow  of  the  first  Robert  Hazard,  which  ap¬ 
peared  in  the  Boston  Gazette  it  is  noted  that 
she  was  “one  hundred  years  of  age,  had  had 
500  children,  grand-children,  and  great 
grand-children,  and  left  205  of  them  still 
living.”  It  was  a  period  of  large  families 
not  only  through  the  early  generations  but 
even  to  the  sixth  and  seventh,  yet  it  is  in¬ 
teresting  to  see  the  successive  families 
gradually  reacting  to  the  times  until,  in  the 
tenth  generation,  the  average  was  only  three 
or  at  most  four  children. 

Elizabeth,  the  daughter  of  the  first 
Thomas  Hazard,  married  William  Lawton 
of  Portsmouth  from  whom  Lawton’s  Valley 
takes  its  name.  Another  daughter,  Hannah, 
married  a  man  named  Wilcox  and  moved 
to  Westerly.  The  third  daughter  married 
twice,  first  into  the  Potter  family  and  sec¬ 
ond  into  one  bearing  the  name  of  Mowry. 

While  it  is  impossible  to  trace  all  the  de¬ 
scendants  individually,  and  only  a  few  can 
be  mentioned  throughout  the  early  genera¬ 
tions,  perhaps  it  would  be  well,  before  pro¬ 
ceeding  further,  to  describe  a  few  character¬ 
istics  of  the  family.  Its  members,  particu¬ 
larly  the  men,  were  strongly  marked  with 
distinctive  characteristics.  They  were  of 
good  stature,  very  powerful  physically, 
had  well-shaped  heads,  high  foreheads, 
straight  or  acquiline  noses,  firmly-chiseled 
chins,  and  fair,  though  somewhat  florid, 
complexions.  In  all  of  them  was  evidence 
of  a  certain  decision  of  character,  a  con¬ 
siderable  amount  of  pride,  and  a  pro¬ 
nounced  independence.  A  Sylvester  Haz¬ 
ard  of  Newport  was  reported  to  have  lifted 

The  First  Bank  Building  of  the  Providence  Institution  for  Savings. 
Erected  in  1854  on  the  Site  of  the  Present  Main  Building 

of  This  Savings  Bank. 



a  medium-sized  horse  and  carried  it  across 
the  street.  Likewise  “Stout  Jeffrey,”  a  Haz¬ 
ard  in  the  fourth  generation,  was  said  at 
one  time  to  have  lifted  a  stone  weighing 
1620  pounds,  while  on  a  later  occasion  the 
same  gentleman  in  an  argument  with  an  an¬ 
tagonist  threw  the  latter  over  a  stone  wall 
and  then  threw  his  horse  after  him  for  em¬ 
phasis.  Most  of  the  men  were  over  six 
feet  in  height,  “Short  Stephen,”  a  keeper 
of  Point  Judith  Light,  being  an  exception. 

The  first  namesake  of  the  original  Thomas 
Hazard  was  a  great  farmer  and  merchant 
of  Narragansett,  dealing  extensively  in  the 
breed  of  horses  known  as  “Narragansett 
pacers.”  In  addition  he  was  one  of  Rhode 
Island’s  first  shipbuilders  and  had  erected 
a  “great  Pier”  and  warehouse  at  Boston 
Neck.  In  his  farming  and  ownership  of 
land  he  was  of  equal  importance  with 
Rowland  Robinson,  whose  son,  Governor 
William  Robinson,  married  into  the  Haz¬ 
ard  family.  In  the  fourth  generation  there 
were  four  Hazards  named  Thomas,  and 
for  distinction  they  went  under  various 
nicknames  such  as  “College  Tom,”  “Nailor 
Tom,”  and  “Virginia  Tom.”  “College 
Tom”  went  to  Yale,  but  later,  after  becom¬ 
ing  a  Quaker,  was  on  the  Board  of  Fellows 
of  Brown  University.  He  married  Eliza¬ 
beth  Robinson  who  was  the  great  grand¬ 
daughter  of  the  first  Thomas  Hazard  and 
hence  his  third  cousin.  “Nailor  Tom”  was 
famous  as  a  politician  of  his  day.  His 
“Blue  Book”  or  diary  contained  much  that 
was  pertinent  to  the  times.  Updike,  him¬ 
self  a  descendant  of  the  Hazard  family,  de¬ 
clared  that  he  would  rather  see  the  devil 
come  into  his  courtroom  than  “Nailor 
Tom.”  The  privateer  of  the  family  was 
“Virginia  Tom”  who  much  preferred  to 
seize  enemy  ships  and  enemy  cargoes  to 
engaging  in  a  shipping  industry  of  his  own. 

The  name  Hazard  soon  became  linked 
with  that  of  many  of  the  most  outstanding 
Rhode  Island  families,  and  as  the  descend¬ 
ants  increased  in  number  there  were  many 
cases  of  intermarriage. 

Benjamin  Hazard,  of  the  fourth  genera¬ 
tion,  married  into  the  Redwood  family  of 
Newport.  Jeremiah,  of  the  next  genera¬ 
tion,  married  Susannah  Hutchinson,  the 
only  one  of  Anne  Hutchinson’s  family  who 
escaped  death  at  the  hands  of  the  Indians. 
Oliver  Hazard,  three  times  removed  from 

the  first  Thomas,  married  Elizabeth  Ray¬ 
mond  and  subsequently  became  the  grand¬ 
father  of  Oliver  Hazard  and  Mathew  Cal- 
braith  Perry.  This  was  the  first  advent  of 
aggressive  fighting  blood  in  the  family,  for, 
prior  to  the  Civil  War,  the  name  Hazard 
was  rarely  found  on  army  or  navy  lists. 
Edward  Hazard,  of  the  sixth  generation 
and  a  son  of  Mayor  George  Hazard  of  New¬ 
port,  married  the  granddaughter  of  Gov¬ 
ernor  Samuel  Cranston. 

Thus  this  story  might  continue  indefinite¬ 
ly,  recording  the  lives  of  scores  and  hun¬ 
dreds  of  descendants.  By  the  end  of  the 
fifth  generation  there  had  been  628  de¬ 
scendants  of  the  first  Thomas  Hazard  who 
came  to  the  island  of  Acquidneck,  and  in 
five  succeeding  generations  this  number 
had  increased  to  2,920.  Suffice  it  to  say 
that  the  name  Hazard  has  been  merged  with 
the  leading  names  in  all  Rhode  Island  his¬ 
tory.  It  is  to  be  found  in  all  the  profes¬ 
sions  of  war  and  peace  as  well  as  the  un¬ 
listed  annals  of  private  citizenship.  It  has 
had  its  characteristics  and  eccentricities,  a 
few  of  which  have  been  revealed  here.  But 
to  review  all  of  the  many  typical  incidents 
is  impossible.  Only  one  more  can  be  re¬ 
corded,  and  with  it  this  brief  and  very  su¬ 
perficial  survey  must  end. 

Stanton  Hazard,  a  son  of  Governor 
Robert  Hazard,  a  strong  loyalist,  had  en¬ 
tered  the  British  Navy.  At  the  time  of  the 
Revolution  he  offered  his  services  to  the 
Rhode  Island  Colony,  asking  only  that  he 
be  given  the  same  rank  in  the  American 
Navy  as  that  to  which  he  had  risen  in  the 
Royal  English  Navy.  The  request  being  re¬ 
fused,  he  continued  in  the  service  of  Eng¬ 
land.  His  ship  was  later  captured  by  a 
Yankee  privateer  during  a  one-sided  engage¬ 
ment,  and  he  was  paroled  to  his  sister’s 
home  in  Narragansett.  It  was  in  this  en¬ 
gagement  that  a  peculiar  habit  saved  his 
life.  He  was  accustomed  to  taking  snuff, 
always  bending  his  head  when  he  did  so  to 
prevent  soiling  his  lace  collar  ruffles  of 
which  he  was  proud.  In  the  midst  of  the 
fighting  he  stooped  to  take  a  pinch  of  snuff, 
bending  very  low.  At  the  same  instant  a 
shot  from  an  enemy  gun  passed  over  his 
stooped  body  and  killed  an  officer  standing 
next  to  him.  It  is  the  only  case  on  record 
where  a  pinch  of  snuff  has  been  the  cause 
of  saving  one  life  and  destroying  another. 




Some  three  hundred  years  ago,  at  the 
time  when  the  first  white  men  were  be¬ 
ginning  to  arrive  in  extensive  numbers 
throughout  New  England,  the  Rhode  Island 
Narragansetts  were  at  the  height  of  their 
power.  Numbering  nearly  20,000  members 
in  all,  with  a  ready  contingent  of  over 
5,000  fighting  men,  they  had  grown  in 
power  since  the  arrival  of  the  first  whites 
and  were  at  the  time  the  most  formidable 
of  all  New  England  tribes.  Yet,  in  the 
course  of  a  few  years,  the  Wampanoags, 
the  Nipmucs,  Aquednecks,  Niantics,  and 
other  tribes  which  had  been  subordinate  to 
the  Narragansetts  began  to  break  away, 
leaving  the  once  powerful  tribe  to  decay 
slowly,  until,  after  the  fierce  fighting  in 
1676,  it  was  completely  annihilated.  It 
seems  little  short  of  astounding  that  a  tribe 
could  gain  its  ascendency  and  then  pass 
into  oblivion  within  a  half-century.  Yet, 
once  entrance  was  made  through  the  vast 
undeveloped  lands  of  the  West,  the  Indians 
of  the  prairies  and  western  wildernesses 
dwindled  away  with  equal  rapidity,  only  a 
tiny  proportion  of  their  vast  numbers  re¬ 
maining  to  inhabitate  the  reservation  set 
apart  for  them  by  their  white  conquerors. 
Now  it  is  indeed  rarely  that  we  think  of 
Indians  at  all,  mainly  because  for  most  of 
us  there  have  been  few  things  in  our  lives 
to  call  them  vividly  to  mind. 

Some  Niantics,  Wampanoags,  and  scat¬ 
tered  members  of  a  few  other  tribes  who 
survived  in  Rhode  Island  after  1676,  were 
driven  southward  and  gathered  together  in 
a  reservation  in  Charleston  which  was 
under  governmental  control.  Here  refugee 
blacks  mingled  with  them,  intermarrying 
until  there  was  not  a  pure-blooded  Indian 
left,  and  much  degeneracy  resulted.  Close 
by,  on  a  small  hill,  was  the  burying  ground 
of  the  Narragansetts.  But  in  1881  the  state 
sold  the  lands  in  the  reservation,  although 
preserving  the  burial  ground,  and  the  re¬ 
maining  Indians  were  granted  citizenship. 
Of  course  we  may  still  find  Indians  in  the 

western  reservations,  joining  with  the 
whites  in  round-ups  and  rodeos.  And  there 
are  the  Navajos  in  the  southwest,  living  in 
their  adobe  huts,  making  their  rich  pottery, 
and  weaving  their  gorgeously  colored 
blankets.  But  we  of  the  East  only  confront 
the  once-feared  red  men  when  the  circus 
comes  to  town,  when  we  again  look  at  their 
pictures  in  our  children’s  story  books,  or 
when  we  suddenly  come  upon  some  stal¬ 
wart  survivor  standing  before  an  old  time 
cigar  store.  Consequently  it  may  prove  to 
our  interest,  and  probably  to  our  advantage 
as  well,  to  give  over  a  few  moments  to  a 
consideration  of  some  of  the  personal 
traits  and  tribal  customs  of  these  first 
Americans,  and,  of  course,  particularly 
those  of  Colonial  Rhode  Island. 

Our  own  Roger  Williams,  who  perhaps 
more  than  any  other  man  became  thoroughly 
conversant  with  the  intimate  tribal  life 
of  all  Rhode  Island  Indians,  has  left  the  best 
descriptions  of  their  customs  and  charac¬ 
ters.  The  hospitality  which  they  invariably 
extended  to  him,  and  to  others  was  one  of 
their  innate  virtues,  only  despoiled  through 
closer  contacts  with  the  general  run  of 
white  men.  However  poor  they  were  the 
Indians  could  be  depended  upon  to  share 
their  frugal  fare  with  those  who  came  to 
visit  them,  offering  the  shelter  of  their  wig¬ 
wams  as  well,  even  though  the  observance 
of  such  generosity  often  meant  that  they 
themselves  had  to  sleep  with  only  a  tree  for 
shelter.  They  were  for  the  most  part  an 
eager,  simple  folk,  anxious  to  gain  the  lat¬ 
est  bit  of  news  and  more  than  delighted 
when  a  traveler  who  could  speak  their 
dialect  came  among  them.  For  a  while  it 
was  perfectly  safe  for  a  white  man  to  travel 
among  them  without  fear,  though  practic¬ 
ally  unarmed,  and  for  Williams  and  others 
of  his  nature  it  was  never  necessary  to  take 
precautions  for  personal  safety. 

Their  home  life  was  languid  and  closely 
attuned  to  the  passing  seasons.  All  their 
belongings,  including  their  wigwams,  were 
of  a  sort  which  could  be  easily  moved  and 
had  doubtless  been  developed  to  fit  their 
nomadic  temperament.  With  the  first  warm 



days  of  spring  and  summer  they  set  up 
their  encampments  near  open  fields  where 
the  squaws  might  easily  plant  and  cultivate 
the  corn  and  beans  that  formed  the  greater 
part  of  their  diet.  Then  with  the  first 
warnings  of  the  winter,  coming  in  the 
whiteness  of  the  early  frosts  and  the  scatter¬ 
ing  of  the  fallen  leaves  before  the  keen 
north  winds,  they  would  swiftly  gather 
their  belongings  and  in  one  day  or  night  be 
gone  into  the  quiet  and  sheltered  recesses 
of  the  thick  forests.  During  the  winter, 
their  stores  of  food  would  consist  of  corn 
and  beans  ground  into  a  coarse  meal, 
augmented  by  dried  berries,  nuts,  and  meat, 
which,  like  the  thriftier  animals  among  the 
nature  folk,  they  had  stored  away  against 
the  long  bleak  months. 

Though  polygamy  existed  to  some  ex¬ 
tent  among  the  various  tribes,  its  practice 
was  not  a  matter  of  male  indulgence  but 
something  of  a  purely  economic  nature, 
for  squaws  as  workers,  were  an  asset.  As  a 
matter  of  fact,  though  the  whole  tendency 
of  these  rude  inhabitants  of  the  forests  was 
to  go  scantily  clothed  and  to  live  together 
in  a  nearly  naked  condition,  such  practice 
did  not  encourage  any  wantonness  among 
them.  In  this,  as  in  many  other  respects, 
their  ideas  and  customs  were  by  far  more 
praiseworthy  than  those  of  the  whites  whose 
civilization  was  in  theory  held  to  be  totally 

The  males  among  the  tribes  were  not  idle 
all  the  time,  although  in  comparison  with 
the  heavy  work  done  by  the  squaws  their 
efforts  toward  the  upkeep  of  their  families 
seemed  sadly  deficient.  Yet  the  men  took 
upon  themselves  a  goodly  share  of  activity. 
They  scoured  the  forests  for  game,  trapped 
birds  and  animals  and  shot  them  with  bows 
and  arrows,  fished  with  short  lines  and 
rude  bone  hooks  or  with  sharp-pointed 
spears,  and  even  aided  their  women  in  the 
digging  of  such  special  delicacies  as  clams. 
And,  of  course,  the  complete  defense  and 
counsel  of  the  tribe  was  entirely  a  male 
affair,  something  the  females  of  the  tribes 
considered  in  itself  sufficient  recompense 
for  their  daily  drudgery.  With  such  defense 
in  view,  there  were  always  many  male  indi¬ 
viduals  who  devoted  themselves  at  all  times 
to  the  fashioning  of  new  arrowheads  and 
tough  ashen  bows,  while  others  spent  their 

time  in  felling  and  hollowing  out  the  trunks 
of  trees  to  make  the  log  canoes. 

That  the  women  had  some  spare  time 
and  energy  is  evident  in  the  hand-woven 
rugs  which  decorated  the  inner  walls  of  the 
wigwams.  These,  and  reed  baskets,  clothing 
of  skins,  and  other  domestic  necessities 
were  mostly  the  products  of  the  lighter 
hours  of  recreation.  Some  of  them,  although 
more  often  it  formed  a  male  occupation, 
spent  time  in  the  procuring  of  shells,  white 
and  black,  from  which  they  formed  the  bits 
of  wampum  used  as  currency  and  as  a  rich 
decorative  material.  This  was  strung  on 
thin  rawhide  sinews  and  made  into  wide 
belts  and  other  ornaments.  For  quite  a 
while  the  English  settlers  used  the  wam¬ 
pum,  too,  as  money,  for  it  facilitated  trade 
with  the  red  men,  but  its  use  gradually  died 
out  with  the  minting  of  silver  coins. 

Though  the  Indians  were  for  the  most 
part  a  silent,  and  to  those  who  feared  them, 
a  grim  and  foreboding  race,  they  were  not 
always  as  stern  and  austere  as  they  have 
been  frequently  pictured.  In  the  intimacy 
of  their  family  circles  they  could  relax  as 
well  as  any  body  of  whites  and  take  the 
greatest  enjoyment  in  games  and  social 
intercourse.  Fond  of  their  families,  the 
elders  were  often  over-indulgent  toward 
their  children,  suffering  the  latter  to  play 
all  kinds  of  pranks  and  even  to  be  disobe¬ 
dient  without  reprimand. 

Smoking  had  been  a  favorite  indulgence 
among  them  long  before  the  coming  of 
white  men,  and  in  their  travelling  about  the 
males  carried  their  pouches  of  tobacco 
about  their  necks  with  as  much  care  as  they 
carried  their  wampum.  The  tobacco  which 
they  smoked  was  not  like  that  in  current 
use  today,  being  a  much  coarser  and 
stronger  variety,  but  from  it  they  derived 
great  satisfaction  and  enjoyment.  The 
fashioning  of  richly-carved  pipes  was  an 
art  among  them.  The  use  of  intoxicants 
was  unknown  before  the  coming  of  the 
whites,  and  they  were  made  the  victims  of 
its  evils,  being  unaccustomed  to  its  effects 
and  not  learning  any  of  its  advantages. 

While  this  is  a  wholly  brief  and  inade¬ 
quate  account,  being  merely  a  fragmentary 
sketch  of  some  of  the  activities  of  these 
natives,  it  may  show  them  as  being  more 
than  mere  bloodthirsty  savages.  Their 



decline  was  totally  due  to  the  coming  of  the 
English,  the  enervating  effects  of  white 
civilization  being  disastrous  to  these  peo¬ 
ple  whose  strength  lay  in  the  pursuit  of  a 
simple  existence.  It  seems  tragic  that  they, 
who  were  such  an  integral  part  of  the 

forests  they  loved,  had  to  perish.  They 
never  fully  realized  just  what  it  was  they 
were  fighting.  It  was  not  the  whites  in  them¬ 
selves  but  white  civilization,  intangible  to 
their  undeveloped  minds  and  inevitable  in 
its  consequences. 


Among  the  names  listed  in  the  annals 
of  the  neighboring  city  of  Pawtucket, 
that  of  the  Jenks  family  stands  out  prom¬ 
inently.  It  is  not  only  because  Joseph 
Jenks,  Jr.,  was  the  founder  of  Pawtucket 
but  because  his  sons  and  daughters  conti¬ 
nued  to  carry  the  name  to  even  greater 
heights.  The  indomitable  pioneer  spirit 
and  genius  of  the  first  Joseph  Jenks,  the 
original  settler  who  came  from  England  to 
Massachusetts  in  1642,  expressed  itself  in 
new  fields  of  endeavor  through  his  sons  and 

The  first  Joseph  Jenks  was  famed  for 
his  skill  in  working  in  brass  and  iron  in 
England  and  was  brought  to  the  Colonies 
by  Governor  Winthrop,  the  younger,  to 
establish  iron  works  here.  Specimens  of 
the  bog-iron,  found  in  the  swamps  of  Sau¬ 
gus,  Massachusetts,  had  been  taken  to  Eng¬ 
land  and  analyzed,  and  a  company  called 
the  “Company  of  Undertakers  for  the  Iron 
Works”  formed  to  develop  these  natural 
resources.  Joseph  Jenks  came  to  superin¬ 
tend  the  construction  of  buildings  for  the 
industry  and  became  the  first  worker  in 
iron  and  brass  in  the  colonies.  The  iron 
works,  under  his  competent  tutelage,  de¬ 
veloped  rapidly  and  supplied  many  of  the 
domestic  implements  used  by  the  neigh¬ 
boring  settlers.  He  was  an  inventor  as  well 
as  an  expert  craftsman,  and  made  the 
moulds  and  castings  for  many  new  tools 
and  machines  with  his  own  hands.  In  1646, 
he  obtained  a  patent  for  an  improved  type 
of  waterwheel.  This  was  the  first  patent 
granted  in  this  country. 

Five  years  after  he  had  arrived  in  New 
England,  he  set  up  his  own  shop  and  forge 
near  the  iron  works  and  started  to  special¬ 
ize  in  the  manufacture  of  scythes  and  other 
tools  requiring  a  fine  edge  and  temper. 

It  was  he  who  made  the  dies  for  the  famous 
“Pine  Tree”  shillings.  But  it  is  not  this 
man  with  whom  we  are  especially  con¬ 
cerned,  for  he  never  came  to  Pawtucket. 

While  he  had  been  making  a  success  of 
the  iron  works  in  New  England,  his  two 
sons  Joseph  and  William,  had  been  living 
with  their  grand-parents  in  England,  for 
his  wife  had  died.  The  older  of  these  two 
boys,  Joseph,  who  was  born  in  1632,  in 
Colebrook,  just  outside  of  London,  came 
to  join  his  father  in  the  new  world  in  1647. 
He  worked  in  his  father’s  foundry  inas¬ 
much  as  he  had  a  natural  aptitude  for  the 
craft.  In  about  1668,  he  married  Esther 
Ballard,  of  Lynn,  Massachusetts,  and  in  the 
following  year  he  went  south  to  the  Colony 
of  Rhode  Island  taking  his  young  family 
with  him.  Here,  he  first  settled  in  War¬ 
wick,  where  it  is  on  record  that  he  served 
as  foreman  of  the  jury  in  the  case  of  a 
drowning  accident  in  1670.  In  the  previous 
year  he  had  been  granted  land  on  either  side 
of  the  Pawtuxet  River,  upon  which  to  set 
up  the  sawmill  and  machinery  he  had 
brought  with  him  from  Lynn  and  to  begin  to 
cut  pine,  chestnut,  and  oak  for  Warwick 

However,  chancing  to  observe  the  water 
power  which  existed  at  the  falls  in  Paw¬ 
tucket,  in  1670  he  bought  about  sixty  acres 
of  land  in  their  vicinity  from  Abel  Potter, 
with  the  additional  right  of  commonage. 
Then,  moving  his  family  and  workshop, 
he  built  his  new  forge  just  below  the  falls. 
Men  who  had  come  with  him  from  his 
father’s  iron  works  helped  to  set  up  his 
sawmill,  carpenter  shop,  and  foundry  later 
on.  Iron  ore  was  obtained  near  Mineral 
Springs,  and  timber  was  cut  from  the  sur¬ 
rounding  forests  and  hauled  to  the  mill  to 
be  cut  into  lumber  for  houses  of  new  set¬ 
tlers.  Nearby  his  forge  Jenks  built  his  own 



home,  the  first  house  to  be  built  in  Paw¬ 
tucket,  on  what  is  now  East  Avenue,  while 
his  men  occupied  rough  dwellings  in  the 

With  his  acquired  expert  knowledge 
combined  with  great  business  ability, 
young  Jenks  soon  created  a  leading  place 
for  himself  in  the  surrounding  countryside, 
even  reaching  the  point  where  he  was  recog¬ 
nized  as  a  sort  of  over-lord.  The  handicraft 
and  genius  that  supplied  the  farmers,  hunt¬ 
ers,  and  fishermen  of  the  locality  with  an 
unlimited  number  of  tools,  some  old  and 
some  new  inventions,  was  very  welcome  in 
the  region  known  as  the  Providence  Planta¬ 
tions.  Consequently,  Jenks  was  given  a  free 
hand  in  the  choice  of  land  in  the  vicinity  in 
which  he  settled.  The  men  of  Rhode  Island 
were  anxious  to  retain  among  them  a  man 
who  was  a  master  craftsman  in  iron  and 
brass.  Around  his  original  establishment 
many  more  homes  grew  up,  the  nucleus  for 
the  great  city  of  more  than  70,000  inhabi¬ 
tants  that  covers  the  location  at  present. 

Honors  were  pressed  upon  him  as  he 
reached  middle  age,  and  he  rose  to  great 
eminence  in  the  Rhode  Island  Colony.  He 
really  became  the  leader  of  a  patriarchy 
which  had  its  center  at  his  forge.  He  was 
a  member  of  the  Providence  Town  Council 
in  1680,  and  Moderator  of  the  Town  Meet¬ 
ing  in  1678-80.  In  April,  1679,  he  was 
elected  a  delegate  from  Providence  to  the 
General  Assembly  in  Newport,  and  was  the 
Speaker  in  that  body  from  1698  to  1699. 
In  various  periods  of  his  life  he  was  a  dep¬ 
uty  and  justice  of  the  peace  and  performed 
many  marriages. 

In  1680,  he  and  two  others  were  empow¬ 
ered  by  the  Assembly  to  purchase  a  bell 
“for  the  public  use  of  the  Colony,  and  for 
giving  notice  or  signifying  the  several 
times  or  sittings  of  the  Assemblys  and 
Courts  of  Trials,  and  General  Councils.” 
The  bell  was  purchased  from  Freelove 
Arnold  (daughter  of  Governor  Benedict 
Arnold)  for  three  pounds  and  ten  shil¬ 
lings.  Previously  the  Assembly  had  been 
called  together  by  the  roll  of  a  drum. 

In  1690,  he  was  one  of  committee  of  sev¬ 
en  to  write  a  letter  of  congratulation  and 
loyalty  to  William  and  Mary  who  had  then 
just  acceded  to  the  British  throne,  and  in 
1695,  he  was  chosen  to  run  the  eastern  line 
of  the  Colony. 

Thus  far  the  Jenks  family  had  advanced 
greatly  in  the  community  for  which  they 
formed  the  nucleus.  But  the  achievements 
of  the  father  were  to  be  overshadowed  by 
those  of  the  sons.  The  family  of  Joseph 
Jenks,  Jr.,  contained  ten  children,  four  boys 
and  six  girls.  All  of  the  boys  became  dis¬ 
tinguished  men.  Joseph,  the  elder,  became 
Governor  of  the  Colony;  Ebenezer  became 
one  of  the  first  ordained  pastors  of  the 
First  Baptist  Church  in  Providence;  Na¬ 
thaniel  attained  the  rank  of  Major  in  his 
chosen  field,  the  military  profession,  and 
William,  who  turned  to  law,  became  a  dep¬ 
uty  and  a  judge.  The  business  of  the  father, 
Joseph  Jenks,  Jr.,  was  inherited  and  con¬ 
ducted  by  the  four  brothers,  who,  in  this 
sense,  were  somewhat  similar  to  the 
famous  “Brown  Brothers”  of  Providence. 
Each  built  a  mansion  for  himself,  fol¬ 
lowing  somewhat  the  style  of  the  Eleazer 
Arnold  mansion  in  Lincoln,  in  that  each 
had  a  stone  chimney  at  one  end.  Nathaniel’s 
home  was  located  at  what  is  now  210  Main 
Street,  but  it  was  demolished  in  1870. 
It  was  of  particular  note,  because  it  is 
believed  that  the  original  home  of  Joseph 
Jenks,  Jr.,  the  father,  had  been  moved  and 
joined  to  it.  The  Jenks  family  has  been 
engaged  in  some  form  of  iron  founding 
and  iron  manufacturing  without  a  break 
from  the  time  of  Joseph  Jenks,  1st  to  the 
present.  The  Pawtucket  firm  of  Fales  & 
Jenks,  founded  in  1830,  is  owned  by 
descendants  of  the  founder. 

Of  the  four  brothers,  the  most  famous  by 
far  was  Joseph,  the  third  bearer  of  the  fam¬ 
ily  name.  During  the  first  part  of  the 
18th  century  he  was  undoubtedly  the  most 
important  individual  in  the  whole  Colony. 
Born  in  1656,  by  1691  he  was  deputy  to  the 
General  Assembly,  holding  the  position  for 
twelve  years  and  serving  as  speaker  of  the 
lower  House  for  four  years.  He  became  a 
major  in  the  militia  of  the  Mainland  towns 
during  the  period  between  1707  and  1712. 
In  1705,  he  was  appointed  one  of  the  com¬ 
missioners  to  settle  the  ever  present  bound¬ 
ary  question,  and  was  reappointed  several 
times  to  aid  in  running  the  line.  Mean¬ 
while  his  unquestioned  ability  in  political 
matters  and  his  great  popularity  had  pro¬ 
cured  for  him  the  office  of  Lieutenant-Gov¬ 
ernor,  a  position  which  he  held  for  thirteen 
years  under  Governor  Cranston.  Finally, 



when  the  latter  died  in  1727,  he  became 
Governor,  holding  the  office  for  six  years. 
He  was  the  first  Governor  to  be  elected  out¬ 
side  of  Newport,  but,  deferring  to  a  wish 
of  the  General  Assembly,  he  moved  his 
family  to  the  seaport  during  the  term  of  his 
governorship.  He  was  twice  married,  his 
first  wife  being  Martha  Brown  of  Provi¬ 
dence  who  died;  his  second,  Alice  Smith 
Dexter  of  the  same  town. 

In  every  respect  Joseph  Jenks,  3rd,  dis¬ 
played  the  greatest  sagacity  and  integrity 
while  occupying  such  an  honored  place  in 
the  public  eye.  Under  his  influence  his 
native  village  grew  vigorously,  responding 
well  to  his  efforts  to  promote  its  best  in¬ 
terests  and  invest  capital  there.  When  he 
was  asked  to  run  again  for  the  governor¬ 
ship  in  1733,  he  declined,  saying  wisely, 

“I  now  perceive  my  natural  faculties  abat¬ 
ing.  If  I  should  continue  longer  in  office, 
it  is  possible  I  may  be  insensible  of  their 
decay,  and  be  unwilling  to  resign  my  post 
when  I  am  no  longer  able  to  fill  it.”  He 
died  seven  years  later,  in  1740,  and  was 
buried  in  the  Old  Jenks  Burying  Ground, 
in  the  middle  of  what  is  now  Read  Street. 
He  was  the  greatest  of  three  great  men  of 
the  same  name  and  family,  and  well  con¬ 
tinued  the  traditions  laid  by  his  forebears. 
On  his  former  tombstone  the  latter  part  of 
the  epitaph  provides  the  most  fitting  sum¬ 
mary  of  the  man  and  of  this  story : 

“He  was  ...  a  Wise  and  Prudent  Gover¬ 
nor;  a  kind  Husband  and  a  Tender  Father; 
Grave,  Sober,  Pleasant  in  Behaviour,  Beau¬ 
tiful  in  Person,  with  a  Soul  truly  Great, 
Heroic,  and  Sweetly-Tempered.” 


Who  killed  Rebecca  Cornell  on  the  after¬ 
noon  of  February  8,  1673,  as  she  sat 
alone  in  her  room  in  her  home  at  Ports¬ 
mouth?  To  this  day,  no  one  knows  for  cer¬ 
tain,  yet  one  man,  her  son,  Thomas,  was 
convicted  (on  evidence  that  now  seems 
wholly  spurious)  and  executed  for  the 
crime.  In  those  days  when  a  defendant 
could  have  no  counsel  to  argue  his  case,  not 
a  few  innocent  men  went  to  their  death,  the 
victims  of  trumped-up  charges.  Nowadays, 
a  court  would  insist  upon  a  minute  autopsy 
upon  the  body  and  a  rigorous  investiga¬ 
tion  of  all  evidence  before  deciding  the 
case  and  declaring  a  verdict.  But  let  us 
examine  the  case  in  hand. 

To  begin  with,  the  Cornells  as  a  family 
were  well-known  in  Portsmouth.  Thomas 
Cornell,  the  father,  had  been  admitted  as  a 
freeman  in  1640,  and  was  made  a  constable 
the  following  year.  Then,  in  1646,  he  re¬ 
ceived  a  grant  of  100  acres  within  the  set- 
lement.  To  this  estate  his  son  Thomas  suc¬ 

Thomas  the  second,  like  his  father,  was 
a  man  of  honor  and  consequence  in  the 
Colony.  He  was  several  times  a  deputy 
from  Portsmouth  to  the  General  Assembly 
in  Newport,  and  was  placed  in  many  posi¬ 

tions  of  public  trust.  And  in  February, 
1673,  we  find  him  living  quietly  on  his 
Portsmouth  farm  with  his  family,  made  up 
then  of  himself,  his  wife,  two  sons,  his 
mother  (a  widow  of  73),  and  two  hired 
men.  His  mother  occupied  a  first-floor 
room,  which  contained  a  fireplace  and  had 
both  an  inner  and  an  outside  door.  Thomas 
had  been  married  twice,  having  had  four 
sons  by  his  first  wife.  It  was  two  of  these 
sons  who  were  at  home  at  the  time  of  the 
murder,  but  the  wife  mentioned  was  Sarah, 
his  second  wife. 

To  proceed;  on  February  8,  1673,  Re¬ 
becca,  the  mother,  was  found  dead  on  the 
floor  of  her  room,  her  clothing  burned  and 
her  body  severely  scorched  by  fire.  Taking 
the  first  testimony  of  Thomas  Cornell  and 
one  of  his  hired  men,  Henry  Strait,  a 
coroner’s  jury  returned  a  verdict  that  she 
had  come  “to  her  untimely  death  by  an 
unhappy  accident  of  fire,  as  she  sat  in  her 
room.”  However,  a  further  examination  of 
the  body  disclosed  a  wound  on  the  upper 
part  of  her  stomach,  and  the  jury  gave  out 
as  a  revised  verdict  that  she  came  to  her 
death  because  of  both  the  fire  and  the  in¬ 
jury,  but  even  then  incriminated  no  one.  As 
the  case  stood,  it  was  a  mystery  until  rumors 
began  to  circulate  concerning  trouble  in  the 



past  between  Thomas  and  his  mother.  Mag¬ 
istrates  took  up  the  inquiry  and  prosecuted 
Cornell  on  the  strength  of  it.  He  was 
arrested  and  bound  over  to  the  Superior 
Court,  indicted  on  May  12th,  tried  and  con¬ 
victed  on  the  same  day,  and  sentenced  to  be 
hanged  on  May  23rd.  Pending  the  execu¬ 
tion  of  the  sentence,  he  was  kept  chained 
and  manacled  and  guarded  by  four  men  by 
day  and  eight  by  night.  In  addition,  a  war¬ 
rant  was  issued  for  the  seizure  of  his  estate. 
There  was  no  chance  for  him  to  escape, 
and  he  died  on  the  gallows  on  the  appointed 

Thomas  Cornell  did  not  confess  any¬ 
thing,  but  strangely  enough,  before  his  ex¬ 
ecution,  his  friends  presented  a  petition  in 
his  behalf  to  the  General  Assembly  request¬ 
ing  that  he  be  buried  beside  his  mother. 
Would  a  murderer  naturally  desire  to  be 
buried  beside  his  victim?  The  petition 
complicated  the  mystery.  The  General  As¬ 
sembly  did  not  grant  it,  but  gave  his 
friends  permission  to  bury  him  on  his  own 
farm,  provided  they  made  his  grave  within 
ten  feet  of  the  common  road  where  the 
Colony  would  be  at  liberty  to  set  up  a 
monument  on  his  grave.  Otherwise  he 
would  have  been  buried  near  the  gallows. 
As  a  further  mark  of  leniency  the  Assem¬ 
bly  released  his  estate  after  his  death,  nam¬ 
ing  the  Town  Council  of  Portsmouth  as 

Another  odd  aspect  of  the  case  was  the 
vote  of  the  General  Assembly  after  the 
execution  to  record  all  proceedings  and 
testimonies  involved  in  the  case  in  the  book 
of  trials.  This  was  not  only  testimony  given 
at  the  actual  trial,  but  such  information  and 
affidavits  as  were  procured  at  the  inquest 
or  later  by  the  magistrates.  Some  of  this 
testimony  was  peculiar,  and  we  will  go 
through  it  briefly. 

On  February  8th,  the  afternoon  of  the 
murder,  Thomas  Cornell  spent  two  hours 
and  a  half  with  his  mother  in  her  room, 
engaging  her  in  conversation,  after  which 
he  came  out  into  the  adjoining  room  and 
began  to  wind  a  quill  of  yarn.  Before  this 
was  half  wound,  he  was  summoned  to 
supper  with  his  family  and  the  two  hired 
men.  After  supper  he  sent  his  son  Edward 
to  ask  his  grandmother  if  she  would  have 
her  milk  boiled  for  supper.  The  boy  went, 
discovered  fire  in  the  room  on  the  floor, 

and  came  running  back  to  get  a  candle  and 
to  give  the  alarm.  Henry  Strait  ran  to  the 
room  followed  by  the  boy  with  the  candle 
and  then  by  Thomas  Cornell  and  his  wife. 
The  hired  man  saw  the  fire  and  raked  it 
out  with  his  hands,  and  then,  in  the  faint 
light  shed  by  the  candle,  saw  a  human  body 
on  the  floor.  Supposing  it  to  be  an  Indian, 
drunk  and  burned,  (a  queer  supposition) 
he  shook  it  by  the  arm  and  spoke  to  it  in 
Indian  language.  At  that  moment  Thomas 
Cornell  saw  the  body  and  exclaimed,  “Oh 
Lord!  it  is  my  mother!” 

The  body  was  lying  on  its  left  side,  with 
its  back  to  the  bed  and  face  towards  the 
window.  Its  clothes  were  part  woolen  and 
part  cotton,  but  only  the  woolen  part  was 
burned.  As  far  as  the  bed  was  concerned, 
only  its  curtains  and  valence  were  burned. 
And  lastly,  the  outer  door  was  fastened. 

Thomas  Cornell  maintained  that  his 
mother’s  clothes  had  caught  fire  from  a  hot 
coal  falling  upon  them  from  her  pipe  as 
she  smoked  in  her  chair,  but  no  pipe  or 
pieces  appear  to  have  been  found  on  the 
floor.  If  that  had  happened,  she  should 
have  been  able  to  have  extinguished  the 
fire  herself  or  at  least  called  for  help.  And 
that  hypothesis  does  not  consider  the  evi¬ 
dence  of  the  fire  about  the  curtains  and 
valences.  Who  extinguished  those,  things 
so  highly  inflammable?  Thomas  Cornell 
would  hardly  have  left  the  room  with  the 
fire  going  unwatched,  thus  imperiling  his 
own  house! 

Now  for  the  testimony  of  the  hired  men. 
One  said  that  usually  both  children  were 
with  their  grandmother  in  the  evening  but 
that  they  had  not  gone  to  her  room  on  the 
evening  of  the  murder.  Further,  the  grand¬ 
mother,  when  well,  usually  ate  with  the 
family,  being  sent  for.  Henry  Strait  testi¬ 
fied  that  he  had  even  asked  Thomas  Cornell 
why  his  mother  was  not  at  the  table  that 
evening  and  that  the  latter  had  replied  it 
was  because  they  were  having  salt  mackerel 
which  she  could  not  eat.  “But,”  said  Strait, 
“she  used  to  be  called  at  other  times  when 
they  had  mackerel.” 

Further  testimony  was  to  the  effect  that 
Rebecca  Cornell  had  had  a  claim  against 
her  son  for  overdue  rent.  Some  said  sharp 
words  had  passed  between  them,  and  others 
that  she  had  been  vaguely  threatened  by  her 
son  and  forced  to  do  menial  services.  At 



one  time  she  had  hinted  at  suicide  and  at 
another  declared  that  in  the  spring  she  was 
going  to  live  with  her  other  son,  Samuel, 
but  feared  that  she  might  be  made  away 
with  before  then.  Finally,  one  witness  who, 
accompanied  by  Sarah  Cornell,  had  visited 
Thomas  Cornell  while  he  was  in  jail  as¬ 
serted  that  the  wife  and  husband  had  con¬ 
versed  apart  and  that  he  had  heard  one  say 
to  the  other,  “If  you  will  keep  my  secret, 
I  will  keep  yours.” 

Such  is  the  main  bulk  of  the  testimony. 
There  is  one  more  episode  in  the  case,  how¬ 
ever,  and  it  might  well  be  mentioned.  Four 
days  after  the  murder  the  brother  of  Re¬ 
becca  Cornell  testified  that  the  ghost  of  his 
sister  had  appeared  at  his  bedside  and 
spoken  to  him  twice,  calling  attention  to 
her  burns  and  wound  and  implying  that  she 
had  been  murdered.  Strange  as  it  seems, 
according  to  the  Cornell  family  genealogi¬ 
cal  records,  this  bit  of  flimsy  testimony  had 
the  most  to  do  with  the  indictment  and  sen¬ 
tencing  of  Thomas  Cornell. 

The  case  caused  a  great  deal  of  feeling 
among  the  people  of  the  Colony,  as  well 
it  might,  and  its  true  solution  remained  a 

mystery.  Two  years  later  it  was  revived 
briefly  in  the  indictment  of  Sarah  Cornell, 
the  widow,  for  either  perpetrating  the 
crime  “or  for  being  abetting  or  consent¬ 
ing  thereto.”  It  may  not  be  wrong  to  as¬ 
sume  that  her  acquittal  was  in  a  large 
measure  due  to  public  sentiment.  There 
had  been  time  to  do  a  whole  lot  of  sane 
thinking  since  the  hanging  of  Thomas  Cor¬ 
nell,  and  people  had  reason  to  question 
the  high-handed  proceedings  which  rushed 
his  execution.  Whether  Thomas  Cornell 
was  actually  guilty  or  not  we  cannot  say. 
The  Friend’s  Records  say  that  “Rebecca 
Cornell,  widow,  was  killed  strangely  at 
Portsmouth  in  her  own  dwelling-house  .  .  .” 
but  they  name  no  murderer.  Even  we,  who 
are  not  lawyers,  would  question  much  of 
the  evidence,  while  one  prominent  Newport 
lawyer,  once  asked  about  the  case,  said 
simply,  “There  was  no  evidence.” 

Sarah  Cornell  probably  thought  the 
same,  for  she  named  a  daughter,  born  after 
her  husband’s  death,  “Innocent”  undoubted¬ 
ly  as  a  living  protest  against  his  unjust 
execution,  which  was  rather  typical  of  the 


OF  ALL  the  Indian  wars  in  New  England, 
King  Philip’s  War  was  the  bloodiest 
and  most  cruel.”  So  reads  the  opening  par¬ 
agraph  of  a  history  compiled  by  a  Rhode 
Island  historian.  And  this  was  indeed  true 
— true  because  the  English  were  cruel  and  a 
great  tribe  of  red  men  were  thirsting  for 
revenge.  But  too  often  has  the  stigma  of 
treachery  and  unwonted  savagery  fallen 
upon  the  fierce  leader  of  the  Indian  tribes, 
King  Philip  himself. 

Philip,  as  he  was  called  by  the  whites, 
was  of  the  true  Indian  nobility,  as  high  in 
character  as  any  in  a  corresponding  class  of 
white  men.  He  was  a  martyr  in  a  lost  cause 
and  gave  his  life  in  a  supreme  attempt  to 
save  his  people  from  complete  annihilation 
by  the  English. 

To  show  the  underlying  causes  for  King 
Philip’s  actions  it  is  necessary  to  trace  the 
history  of  his  line  through  a  preceding  gen¬ 
eration  and  its  branches. 

The  father  of  Philip  was  Massasoit,  the 
greatest  of  all  Wampanoag  sachems.  For 
many  years  Massasoit  had  suffered  the  dom¬ 
inance  of  the  Narragansetts.  When  a  plague 
had  weakened  his  own  tribe  of  the  Wam- 
panoags,  the  Narragansett  leaders,  Canon- 
icus  and  Mianotanomi,  had  forced  him  to 
accept  terms  which  practically  made  him 
their  subject. 

However,  the  advent  of  the  Plymouth  set¬ 
tlers  gave  the  wise  young  chieftain  a  long- 
sought  loophole  of  escape.  With  far-sighted 
vision  he  immediately  made  friends  with  the 
new  white  men,  realizing  their  great 
strength,  and  hoping  to  ally  them  to  his  side 
when  he  again  attempted  to  throw  off  the 
power  of  the  Narragansetts.  His  plan  was 
almost  immediately  successful.  The  whites 
placed  their  full  confidence  in  this  young 
chieftain  who  had  so  graciously  received 
them,  though  they  encroached  upon  his 
hunting  grounds.  And  when  the  Narragan- 



setts,  in  jealousy,  tried  by  many  means  to 
break  the  peaceful  relations  between  the 
two  peoples,  it  was  always  the  English  who 
proved  the  deciding  factor  in  their  defeat 
and  humiliation.  They  attempted  to  carry 
off  Squanto,  who  had  been  the  interpreter 
between  the  different  races,  hut  a  company 
of  English  under  Miles  Standish  rescued 
the  Indian  from  his  captors,  adding  im¬ 
mensely  to  the  prestige  of  the  whites.  Again, 
when  Massasoit  learned  of  a  conspiracy 
against  his  friends,  the  white  men,  he  gave 
them  warning,  after  having  refused  an  invi¬ 
tation  to  join  the  conspiracy  himself.  By 
this  act  of  kindness  the  English  were  en¬ 
abled  to  nip  the  uprising  in  the  bud  and  kill 
the  leader,  an  Indian  named  Wituwamet. 

With  the  constant  interchange  of  courte¬ 
sies  between  Massasoit  and  the  whites,  a 
deep  friendship  was  begun,  and  the  Narra- 
gansetts  were  forced  to  acknowledge  the 
independence  and  power  of  the  Wampa- 
noags  as  a  separate  tribe.  Canonicus  and 
Mianotanomi  finally  gave  their  allegiance 
to  the  English  and  were  made  British 

Freed  of  a  fear  of  the  Narragansetts,  and 
helped  by  the  friendly  spirit  of  the  whites, 
the  Wampanoags  rose  in  power  and  num¬ 
bers  as  a  tribe  while  Massasoit  grew  old. 
But  the  old  chieftain  could  not  help  but 
notice  that  gradually  the  white  settlers  were 
failing  to  live  up  to  their  treaties  and  agree¬ 
ments  which  they  had  made  in  the  past. 

Squanto  turned  traitor  and  became 
anxious  to  dethrone  Massasoit  because  of 
excessive  envy  of  his  power.  Yet  despite 
the  fact  that  both  the  English  and  the  Indi¬ 
ans  knew  that  death  was  the  penalty  for 
treachery,  the  English  would  not  turn 
Squanto  over  to  his  fellow  red  men  as  they 
desired.  It  was  a  distinct  reversal  of  the 
procedure  which  always  occurred  when  an 
Englishman  had  been  found  guilty  of  the 
same  offense.  In  that  case  the  whites  had 
always  demanded  that  the  privilege  of  pun¬ 
ishment  was  theirs  alone,  and  the  Indians 
had  returned  any  white  offenders  to  the 
settlers  for  justice. 

Later,  in  the  midst  of  a  war  in  which  the 
English  went  to  fight  as  aides  of  the  Pe- 
quots,  a  large  number  of  Pequot  squaws 
and  children  who  had  gone  to  Block  Island 
for  safety  were  cruelly  massacred  by  the 
very  English  who  were  supposed  to  be  their 

allies.  However,  of  all  the  incidents  which 
did  a  great  deal  to  stir  up  the  Indians  to  the 
fighting  pitch,  the  most  shocking  was  the 
murder  of  the  sachem,  Mianotanomi.  This 
chieftain  had  always  regarded  his  word  as 
binding,  and  he  had  lived  up  to  his  treaty 
with  the  English  to  the  very  moment  when 
he  was  treacherously  captured  by  two  of 
his  own  men  (who  were  acting  for  the  Eng¬ 
lish)  and  delivered  to  his  enemy  Uncas  for 
a  cowardly  execution. 

Brought  up  in  the  family  of  Massasoit, 
the  young  Indian,  Philip,  together  with  his 
brother  Alexander,  had  plenty  of  chance  to 
observe  the  insincerity  and  cruelty  of  the 
white  men  who  had  posed  as  his  father’s 
friends.  It  was  an  era  of  encroachment 
upon  Indian  lands,  when  the  whites  were 
forcing  the  red  men  farther  and  farther 
back  into  their  hunting  grounds.  Atrocities 
of  a  revolting  nature  were  frequently  com¬ 
mitted.  An  Indian  squaw  was  captured  by 
a  hunter  and  ordered  to  be  torn  to  pieces  by 
his  dogs.  A  white  conspiracy,  in  which  it 
was  planned  to  massacre  all  the  Indian  con¬ 
verts  on  Deer  Island,  was  only  broken  up 
by  direct  orders  from  England.  Bounties 
were  placed  upon  the  heads  of  all  young 
and  defenceless  redmen,  $130  being  paid 
for  the  scalp  of  an  Indian  boy  and  $50  for 
that  of  a  squaw.  All  in  all,  the  actions  of 
the  English  were  like  the  constant  dripping 
of  water  on  a  stone,  in  this  case  the  stone 
being  the  patience  of  the  Indians. 

In  1656,  Philip  and  his  brother,  Alexan¬ 
der,  had  been  brought  to  Plymouth  by  their 
father  Massasoit  and  sworn  in  as  allies  of 
the  whites.  After  the  death  of  Massasoit, 
Alexander  made  Mount  Hope  the  center  of 
his  kingdom,  but  the  English  forgot  that  he 
was  their  ally  and  not  their  slave.  Because 
they  supposed  he  had  been  plotting  against 
them,  they  surprised  him  while  he  was  out 
hunting  and  ordered  him  to  report  to  Ply¬ 
mouth.  This  he  at  first  refused  to  do,  but 
eventually  was  forced  to.  Unfortunately 
for  all  concerned,  the  chieftain  fell  sick  of 
a  fever  while  he  was  in  the  hands  of  the 
English,  and  died.  With  the  countless  cruel¬ 
ties  of  the  English  as  examples,  the  Indians 
and  Philip,  his  brother,  naturally  believed 
that  he  had  been  the  victim  of  poisoning. 

Sick  with  sadness  at  the  death  of  his 
brother,  Philip  became  filled  with  a  rising 
hatred  for  the  men  who  were  killing  his 



friends  and  countrymen.  As  the  successor 
to  Alexander’s  crown,  he  determined  at 
whatever  cost  to  make  a  last  supreme  at¬ 
tempt  to  save  his  people  from  utter  destruc¬ 
tion.  The  noble  blood  of  the  great  Massa- 
soit  was  in  his  veins,  but  his  loyalty  to  the 
whites  had  been  strained  to  the  breaking 
point.  He  was,  after  all  an  Indian  patriot, 
who  could  but  feel  the  call  of  loyalty  to  his 
own.  He  could  not  help  but  think  of  all  the 
land  which  formerly  had  been  ruled  by  the 
chieftains  of  his  great  family  and  which 
had  been  treacherously  and  constantly  taken 
from  them.  How  could  he  stop  this  ever 
threatening  wave  of  color,  this  endless 
stream  of  white  men  which  was  gradually 
engulfing  the  last  remnants  of  his  posses¬ 

The  only  alternative  to  further  insult 
and  oppression  seemed  to  be  to  unite  the 
scattered  Indian  tribes  and  attempt  to  ex¬ 
terminate  the  white  settlers  who  had  caused 
the  trouble.  When  the  English  had  been 
weak,  the  great  Massasoit  had  prevailed 
upon  the  Indians  to  refrain  from  attacking 
them.  Now,  when  the  whites  were  strong, 
there  seemed  to  be  no  quarter  in  their  ag¬ 
gressive  invasion  of  Indian  lands. 

King  Philip  acted  as  only  a  man  can  act 
when  all  that  he  loves  and  holds  dear  is  at 

stake.  He  gathered  together  all  his  allies 
among  the  brow-beaten  tribes  and  struck 
blow  after  blow  at  the  English  settlements. 
Twice  while  he  had  been  making  plans  the 
English  had  become  suspicious  and  had 
sent  for  him  to  see  if  they  could  detect  any 
prospect  of  near  hostilities.  But  twice  had 
Philip  managed  to  evade  the  English 
queries.  Consequently,  when  he  struck  it 
was  like  the  sudden  flash  of  a  thunder  bolt. 
His  fighting  was  fierce,  for  he  had  been  cor¬ 
nered  by  many  years  of  English  insult  and 
overbearance.  All  his  suppressed  feelings 
were  released  at  last  in  this  final  bloody  war 
which  was  to  end  all  Indian  uprisings  in 
this  state  of  Rhode  Island.  Not  that  Philip 
confined  his  war  to  Rhode  Island.  On  the 
contrary,  he  carried  it  all  over  New  Eng¬ 
land,  striking  at  settlement  after  settlement, 
until  the  English  hardly  knew  where  to 

He  lost  the  cause  for  which  he  fought,  but 
his  uprising  was  a  glorious  one  ....  the 
uprising  of  a  man  of  great  strength  and 
character  who  fought  against  still  stronger 
enemies.  May  this  account  clear  for  all 
time  the  character  of  one  who  stood  fast  by 
his  convictions,  who  put  his  whole  being 
into  a  cause  which  can  only  be  called  noble, 
and  who  gave  his  all  to  save  his  countrymen. 


Much  has  been  written  about  the  region 
in  the  vicinity  of  Wickford.  Here  was 
located  the  famous  Smith  Blockhouse,  per¬ 
haps  better  known,  both  then  and  now,  as 
Gocumcussoc.  Ten  miles  to  the  southwest 
was  the  Great  Swamp  with  the  swamp  fort 
of  the  Narragansetts  hidden  on  a  tiny  knoll. 
Eight  miles  south  of  the  Smith  Blockhouse 
was  the  home  of  Jireh  Bull,  which  the 
Indians  burned  in  1675.  It  was  only  a  few 
nights  after  this  outrage  by  the  Narragan¬ 
setts  that  the  Puritans  from  Massachusetts 
and  Connecticut  gathered  at  Cocumcussuc 
on  a  bitter  December  evening  and  set  out, 
led  by  an  Indian  they  had  captured,  for  the 
swamp  fortress  of  the  red  men.  But,  al¬ 
though  the  white  men  succeeded  in  pene¬ 
trating  the  swamp  and  even  the  fort  itself, 

completely  surprising  the  Narragansetts 
and  almost  annihilating  the  tribe,  there  was 
another  fort  to  which  a  few  of  the  Indians 
escaped  and  which  was  never  discovered  by 
any  white  man  until  long  after  it  had  been 
abandoned.  This  latter  hiding  place  was 
called  the  Queen’s  Fort. 

The  Queen’s  Fort  stood  upon  a  small  hill 
on  the  line  which  divides  North  Kingston 
from  Exeter.  Its  ruins  are  about  two  miles 
from  the  railroad  junction  at  Wickford. 
The  hill  itself  was  heavily  wooded  and 
covered  with  big  boulders.  From  the  south 
side  the  fort  was  practically  unapproach¬ 
able  because  of  these  huge  rocks,  while  on 
the  east,  west,  and  north,  the  very  steepness 
of  the  hill  would  easily  discourage  any 
attacking  force.  Had  the  Indians  been  in 
hiding  in  this  fort  when  the  whites  set  out 



to  conquer  them  for  good  and  all,  the  re¬ 
sult  might  have  been  far  different.  In  fact 
it  probably  would  have  been  the  latter  who 
would  have  been  nearly  annihilated. 

The  designer  of  both  these  Narragan- 
sett  forts  was  an  Indian  whom  the  English 
called  “Stone  Wall  John.”  In  one  instance 
he  is  called  “the  Stone-layer”  because 
being  “an  active,  ingenious  fellow  he  had 
learned  the  masons’  trade,  and  was  of  great 
use  to  the  Indians  in  building  their  forts 
.  .  .”  It  is  certain  that  he  was  the  chief 
engineer  among  the  Narragansetts,  and  he 
probably  was  one  of  the  more  distinguished 
chieftains.  In  designing  the  Queen’s  Fort 
he  had  taken  full  advantage  of  the  many 
boulders  upon  the  hill  side  and  had  built 
rough  stone  walls  between  them  to  form 
one  continuous  line.  According  to  military 
authorities  who  have  viewed  the  spot  there 
is  “a  round  bastion  or  half  moon  on  the 
northeast  comer  of  the  Fort;  and  a  Salient 
or  V-shaped  point,  or  Flanker,  on  the  west 
side.”  Within  the  fort  were  many  other 
boulders  with  excavations  under  them  large 
enough  to  shelter  two  or  three  persons. 
However,  the  most  extraordinary  of  all  was 
what  was  known  as  the  Queen’s  chamber,  a 
hiding  place  about  one  hundred  feet  west  of 
the  fort  itself.  This  was  a  huge  excavation 
beneath  an  immense  mass  of  rocks  so  large 
that  the  tallest  men  could  stand  within  it 
with  ease.  The  floor  was  of  fine  white  sand 
and  the  entrance  was  so  skillfully  concealed 
that  it  could  not  be  detected  six  feet  away. 

These  two  forts,  the  swamp  fort  and  the 
Queen’s  Fort,  were  built  primarily  to  serve 
as  the  two  strongholds  to  protect  the  Nar- 
ragansett  territory  in  the  immediate  vicin¬ 
ity.  While  the  former  was  ten  miles  from 
the  blockhouse,  the  latter  was  only  three 
and  one-half  miles  away.  Canonicus, 
Miantanomi,  and  many  other  distinguished 
sachems  lived  within  a  radius  of  five  miles 
from  the  Queen’s  Fort.  And  so  cleverly 
were  these  fortresses  constructed  that  even 
the  swamp  fort  might  not  have  been  cap¬ 
tured  if  Peter,  the  Indian  captive  who 
turned  traitor,  had  not  led  the  English  right 
inside  it. 

Somewhere  about  the  Queen’s  Fort  was 
also  an  Indian  village,  although  its  exact 
location  was  never  determined.  However, 
one  ancient  historian  relates  that  “orders 
were  given  for  a  march,  according  to  dis¬ 

cretion  towards  the  Narragansetts’  coum 
try,  or  town,  when  finding  no  Indians,  they 
were  at  a  stand,  not  knowing  which  way 
to  go  in  pursuit  of  the  Indians;  but  dur¬ 
ing  their  stay  they  discovered  some  place 
under  ground  wherein  was  Indian  corn  laid 
up  in  store;  this  encouraged  them  to  look 
further,  and  they  found  several  good  quan¬ 
tities  of  that  grain  in  like  manner.”  The 
same  chronicler  goes  on  to  reveal  another 
side  of  “Stone  Wall  John’s”  character:  “the 
next  day  there  came  an  Indian,  called 
‘Stone  Wall  John,’  pretending  to  come 
from  the  Sachems  intimating  their  willing¬ 
ness  to  have  peace.  That  evening,  he  not 
being  gone  a  quarter  of  an  hour  (from 
Smith’s  House) ,  his  company  that  lay  hid 
behind  a  Hill,  killed  two  Salem  men,  and  at 
a  house  three  miles  off,  where  I  had  ten 
men,  they  killed  two.  Instantly  Captain 
Mosely,  myself,  and  Captain  Gardiner  were 
sent  to  fetch  in  Major  Appleton’s  company 
that  kept  three  and  a  half  miles  off;  in 
coming  they  (the  Indians)  lay  behind  a 
Stone  wall  and  fired  thirty  shots  on  us.” 
“Stone  Wall  John”  had  built  many  stone 
walls  around  the  hills  in  the  vicinity.  It 
was  he,  who  after  learning  the  plans  of  the 
English,  had  directed  these  first  attacks 
upon  them. 

The  queen  for  whom  this  fort  was  named 
and  who  ruled  the  surrounding  town  of  the 
Narragansetts  was  Quaiapen.  She  had  been 
the  daughter-in-law  of  Canonicus,  being  the 
wife  of  his  eldest  son,  Mexanno,  and  was 
related  by  blood  or  marriage  to  the  fore¬ 
most  chieftains  of  both  the  Niantic  and 
Narragansett  tribes.  But  all  these  great 
sachems,  Canonicus,  Mascus,  Miantanomi, 
Mexanno  and  Canonchet,  were  dead,  and 
Quaiapen  became  the  great  Squaw-Sachem 
of  the  Narragansetts,  using  the  Queen’s 
Fort  as  her  last  stronghold.  She  was  a  sister 
to  the  famous  Ninegret,  the  great  Niantic 
Sachem,  and  the  mother  of  both  Quequa- 
ganet,  who  sold  the  huge  tract  of  Petta- 
quamscut  to  the  English,  and  Scuttape,  who 
signed  one  of  the  Confirmation  Deeds  of 

She  had  gathered  together  the  pitiful 
remnants  of  her  tribe — those  who  had  man¬ 
aged  to  escape  during  the  Great  Swamp 
Fight — and  they  lived  in  hiding  in  the 
Queen’s  Fort.  Late  in  June,  1676,  she  left 
the  fort  with  the  rest  of  her  tribe  and  set 



forth  on  an  expedition  towards  the  north, 
the  nature  of  which  was  never  known.  They 
had  only  proceeded  a  little  way  when  they 
were  attacked  on  Sunday  morning,  July 
2nd,  by  a  roving  band  of  Connecticut  horse¬ 
men,  who  were  on  a  warlike  excursion 
through  Rhode  Island,  and  completely 
massacred.  A  Major  Talcott  in  command  of 
the  white  horsemen,  stated  that  the  Indians 
numbered  238.  Not  an  Indian  escaped,  and 
that  day  died  three  great  Narragansetts, 
Quaiapen,  the  Squaw-Sachem,  Potuck,  her 
counsellor,  and  “Stone  Wall  John,”  the 
great  Indian  engineer. 

In  the  following  month  of  August,  Wil¬ 
liam  Harris  wrote  in  commorating  the 
tragedy:  “A  great  counciller  of  ye  Narra- 
gensetts,  &  spetially  of  a  great  woman;  yea 

ye  greatest  yt  ther  was;  ye  sd  woman  called 
ye  Old  Queene;  ye  fore  sd  counciller  her 
greatest  favoret;  he  doth  as  much  excel  in 
depth  of  judgment,  common  witts,  as  Saull 
was  taller  than  Israel;  he  bore  as  much 
sway  by  his  Councill  at  Narragansett,  ac¬ 
cording  to  his,  and  theyer  small  propor¬ 
tions,  as  great  Mazerreen  among  the  french.” 

Thus  goes  the  story  of  the  Queen’s  Fort, 
the  last  stronghold  of  the  Narragansetts.  It 
was  discovered  at  last  shortly  after  the  mas¬ 
sacre  of  the  Squaw-Sachem,  Quaiapen,  and 
her  little  tribe.  Like  the  Squaw-Sachem  of 
the  Wampanoags,  Weetamoe,  she  was  the 
last  ruler  of  a  great  tribe  and  a  stalwart 
woman  who  retained  her  nobility  in  refus¬ 
ing  to  bow  to  the  English  who  had  killed 
all  her  relations  and  tribesmen. 


Compared  with  the  way  many  colonial 
settlements  came  into  being,  Bristol 
started  life  with  at  least  a  silver,  if  not  a 
golden,  spoon  in  its  mouth.  Of  course  the 
first  settlers  had  all  the  hardships  attendant 
with  hewing  homesteads  out  of  a  veritable 
wilderness.  They  had  to  segregate  them¬ 
selves  temporarily  from  society  of  the  day 
and  forego  all  the  conveniences  and  advan¬ 
tages  already  offered  by  established  towns. 
Yet  theirs  was  far  from  a  hard  lot.  Other 
settlers  had  founded  towns  which  had  to  be 
nearly  self-sufficient,  their  only  source  of 
supply  and  help  being  the  mother  country. 
They  had  come  from  England  knowing  lit¬ 
tle  if  anything  about  the  new  western  con¬ 
tinent  that  was  to  be  their  home  and  only 
trusting  to  God  and  their  own  courage  and 
strength  their  hopes  of  survival.  Boston, 
Plymouth,  Salem,  even  Providence  and 
Portsmouth,  were  settled  in  this  way,  their 
founders  being  men  and  women  who  pre¬ 
ferred  to  chance  the  dangers  of  an  unknown 
land  than  suffer  bitter  oppression  and  per¬ 
secution  in  a  land  of  plenty.  They  had  no 
opportunity  to  make  a  preliminary  survey 
of  the  new  territory;  they  were  nearly  all 
poor,  or  of  only  moderate  means;  and  they 
had  to  encounter  hostile  as  well  as  friendly 

The  case  of  Bristol  was  quite  different. 

Its  location  in  the  Mount  Hope  Lands,  with 
its  harbor  facilities  on  Narragansett  Bay, 
was  nearly  ideal.  The  power  of  the  Indians 
had  been  broken  for  all  time  with  the  close 
of  King  Philip’s  War  in  1676.  And  the 
founding  of  the  town  was  undertaken  care¬ 
fully  as  a  sound  business  proposition.  In 
the  very  same  year  that  the  Mount  Hope 
Lands  became  the  property  of  the  Plymouth 
Colony  by  right  of  conquest,  the  colony 
sold  a  tract  of  land  “commonly  called 
Mount  Hope  Neck  and  Poppasquash  Neck” 
to  four  prosperous  Boston  merchants,  trans¬ 
ferring  the  ownership  with  the  “turf  and 
twig”  ceremony  then  in  practice. 

These  four  proprietors  had  the  chance  of 
every  purchaser  to  estimate  the  value  of 
their  purchase  before  buying.  Thus  they 
must  have  been  reasonably  sure  of  the  suc¬ 
cess  of  their  enterprise  before  paying  the 
sum  of  1100  pounds  for  the  wilderness 
land.  And  perhaps  it  would  be  wise  for  us 
to  investigate  a  little  and  see  what  manner 
of  men  these  were  who  had  the  vision  and 
ambition  to  set  about  founding  the  town  of 
Bristol,  and  who  laid  it  out  so  well. 

There  were  four  originally  who  signed 
the  Grand  Deed  of  the  Plymouth  Colony 
and  acquired  the  territory  .  .  .  John  Walley, 
Stephen  Burton,  Nathaniel  Oliver,  and 
Nathaniel  Byfield.  Nathaniel  Oliver  almost 



immediately  transferred  his  share  of  the 
purchase  to  Nathan  Hayman,  and  the  latter 
is  also  listed  in  the  records  of  the  first  town 
meeting  as  an  original  proprietor.  All  of 
these  men  had  been  residents  of  Boston  and 
had  acquired  large  fortunes  as  merchants. 

John  Walley  had  come  to  this  country  in 
1660  at  the  age  of  sixteen  and  had  pro¬ 
ceeded  to  establish  himself  solidly  as  a  re¬ 
spected  citizen  of  Boston,  a  man  of  an  un¬ 
usually  frank  personality  yet  with  no  per¬ 
sonal  enemies.  After  his  part  in  the  plan¬ 
ning  out  of  the  town  he  was  repeatedly  a 
holder  of  town  offices  yet  he  was  never  a 
candidate  for  office.  He  had  a  reputation 
for  performing  all  his  duties  faithfully, 
and  even  his  political  opponents  frequently 
called  upon  his  opinions  in  matters  per¬ 
taining  to  the  good  of  the  state.  In  1690,  he 
commanded  the  land  forces  of  Sir  William 
Phipp’s  unsuccessful  Canadian  expedition, 
discharging  his  command  with  generalship 
and  heroism.  With  the  rapid  rise  of  Bristol 
he  increased  his  personal  fortune,  but  was 
an  ardent  philanthropist  and  supporter  of 
religion.  However,  in  later  life  he  returned 
to  Boston,  dying  there  in  1712. 

Little  is  known  about  Stephen  Burton, 
probably  the  best  educated  of  the  four  and 
the  holder  of  an  Oxford  degree.  Though 
he  played  but  a  small  part  in  the  founding 
of  the  town,  due  to  a  temporary  mental  ill¬ 
ness,  he  afterwards  was  very  active  in  the 
political  life  of  the  town  and  colony.  Be¬ 
cause  of  his  beautiful  handwriting  he  was 
chosen  the  first  recording  officer  of  the  town 
and  was  later  the  Register  of  the  Probate 
Court,  Clerk  of  the  Court  of  Common  Pleas, 
and  Register  of  Deeds.  In  addition  he  was 
five  times  sent  to  the  General  Court  at 
Plymouth  as  a  deputy  from  Bristol,  an  evi¬ 
dence  of  the  esteem  he  enjoyed  among  his 
fellow  citizens.  He  died  in  Bristol  in  1693. 

Nathaniel  Oliver  was  one  of  the  richest 
of  the  four,  but  never  settled  in  Bristol.  He 
did,  however,  maintain  a  strong  and  tan¬ 
gible  interest  in  the  town,  even  after  he  had 
sold  his  share  as  proprietor  to  Nathan 
Hayman.  This  latter  individual  was  both  a 
mariner  and  merchant,  noted  for  his 
shrewdness.  He  did  a  lot  to  start  the  mari¬ 
time  career  of  the  town  but  died  in  1689, 
long  before  his  period  of  usefulness  was 

By  far  the  most  influential  and  important 
of  the  proprietors  of  Bristol  was  Nathaniel 
Byfield.  He  came  from  a  prominent  Eng¬ 
lish  family  in  ecclesiastical  circles,  his 
father  being  one  of  the  Westminster  Assem¬ 
bly  of  Divines  and  his  mother  a  sister  of 
Juxon,  a  former  Bishop  of  London  and 
High  Treasurer.  Born  in  1653,  the  young¬ 
est  of  twenty-one  children,  he  came  to  Bos¬ 
ton  at  the  age  of  twenty-one  and  decided  to 
stay.  In  1675,  he  married  one  Deborah 
Clarke  and  began  his  very  successful  busi¬ 
ness  career.  So  prosperous  had  he  become 
by  the  end  of  King  Philip’s  War  that  he 
was  able  to  invest  his  surplus  fortune  in  the 
joint  purchase  of  the  Mount  Hope  territory. 
His  first  house  on  Byfield  Street  was  the 
finest  of  all  Bristol  residences,  and,  like  the 
Bosworth  House,  was  used  for  early  public 
and  religious  meetings.  It  was  two  stories 
high  with  a  barn  roof  and  a  stout  frame  of 
blue  oak.  Nearly  square  itself,  it  had  a 
great  central  chimney  fourteen  feet  square 
and  huge  fireplaces  in  every  room.  Two 
hundred  years  later,  when  carpenters  were 
demolishing  the  structure,  they  found  the 
great  beams  still  so  hard  that  only  the 
sharpest  tools  could  make  an  impression 
upon  them  and  when  the  chimney  was  over¬ 
thrown  it  fell  like  a  single  tree  trunk  with 
hardly  a  break. 

Byfield  had  intended  to  live  in  this  house 
at  first,  but  when  he  found  that  he  could 
acquire  almost  the  complete  ownership  of 
Poppasquash,he  decided  to  build  his  actual 
homestead  there.  The  site  of  the  new  home¬ 
stead  was  the  finest  on  the  peninsula  but 
the  house  itself,  though  built  as  sturdily, 
was  in  no  way  the  equal  of  its  predecessor. 
It  was  of  the  “camelopard”  type,  with  great 
front  rooms,  sixteen  feet  square,  and  blinds, 
a  rare  luxury.  Immense  oak  beams  four 
feet  through  capped  each  fireplace,  and  did 
not  show  signs  of  decay  even  after  150 
years  of  exposure  to  fire  and  smoke.  It  was 
in  one  of  these  fireplaces,  one  in  the  rear  of 
the  house,  that  an  ox  from  the  Byfield 
barns  was  found  during  a  heavy  snowstorm 
calmly  lying  on  the  warm  ashes. 

Byfield  was  a  figure  of  great  prominence 
in  Bristol  during  his  forty-four  years  as  its 
citizen.  He  was  chief  judge  of  the  new  Bris¬ 
tol  County  and  five  times  a  delegate  to  the 
General  Court  at  Plymouth.  In  addition  he 



was  for  thirty-eight  years  the  Chief  Justice 
of  the  Court  of  General  Sessions  of  the 
Peace  and  Common  Pleas  of  Bristol. 

This  was  no  light  weight  of  a  man.  Of  im¬ 
posing  appearance,  tall  in  stature,  talented 
as  a  public  speaker,  he  was  a  power  in  the 
political  controversies  of  both  the  Massa¬ 
chusetts  Bay  and  Plymouth  Colonies,  and 
made  many  enemies  as  well  as  close  friends. 
It  was  true  that  he  was  a  man  of  ambition 
and  desired  greatly  to  become  a  governor  of 
Massachusetts,  but  his  beliefs  and  motives 
in  public  life  have  been  often  misrepre¬ 
sented.  He  was  a  strong  opponent  of  those 
who  condoned  the  barbarous  practice  of 
burning  supposed  witches,  and  was  disliked 
by  both  William  Phipps  and  Increase 

The  record  of  his  life  in  Bristol  shows  the 
man  to  have  been  generous  to  the  town, 
straightforward  in  all  his  personal  dealings, 
and  very  friendly  in  supporting  religion 
and  education.  Of  course  he  probably  was 
overbearing,  anxious  to  gain  his  own  way, 

and  of  a  violent  temper  when  crossed.  Yet 
the  records  show  a  life  that  was  strongly 
devoted  to  right  and  justice.  His  enemies 
had  to  admit  his  paramount  integrity.  The 
plan  of  Bristol  was  nearly  all  due  to  him. 
Shortly  before  the  death  of  his  second  wife, 
in  1730,  he  returned  to  Boston  to  finish  out 
his  old  age,  dying  there  himself  in  1732. 
His  will  mentioned  some  of  his  vast  posses¬ 
sions,  naming  such  things  as  a  mansion 
house,  rope-walk,  warehouse,  wharf  and 
flats,  tenements,  and  stores  in  Boston  beside 
his  Bristol  lands  and  property. 

These,  then,  were  the  men  who  planned 
the  present  town  of  Bristol.  Their  names 
are  perpetuated  in  this  day  in  the  names  of 
Bristol  streets  and  schools.  Some  of  them 
were  able  to  see  the  abundant  fruits  of  their 
efforts  maturing  richly.  The  silver  spoon 
which  they  supplied  at  Bristol’s  founding 
was  well-deserved,  for  upon  the  foundations 
they  laid  was  built  one  of  the  greatest  colon¬ 
ial  towns  and  seaports,  destined  to  be  known 
throughout  the  world. 


The  story  of  light,  together  with  that  of 
heat  and  shelter,  is  perhaps  the  key- 
story  of  civilization  and  progress.  There 
was  a  time  in  the  history  of  man  when  light 
was  only  the  by-product  of  heat,  but  the 
days  of  the  cave  man  have  been  buried 
under  strata  upon  strata  of  later  history 
and  era  after  era  of  progress.  And  we,  who 
are  now  living  on  the  top  strata,  the  very 
latest  of  eras,  scarcely  think  of  the  past,  so 
completely  has  the  present  enveloped  us. 

International  tribute  has  been  paid  to 
the  man  who  alone  has  perhaps  done  more 
to  stimulate  progress  throughout  the  past 
fifty  years  than  any  other.  Because  Thom¬ 
as  Edison  invented  the  incandescent  electric 
light  in  the  year  1879  and  because  world¬ 
wide  recognition  of  his  genius  has  been 
given,  it  seems  fitting,  in  order  that  we  may 
more  fully  appreciate  his  gifts  to  us  and 
to  all  people,  that  we  should  compare  the 
present  with  the  past  and  learn  how  the 
homes  and  streets  of  our  Providence  fore¬ 
fathers  were  lighted  during  the  last  two 
hundred  years. 

Street  lights  would  have  been  laughed  at 
by  our  early  colonial  ancestors.  For  more 
than  a  hundred  years  they  depended  upon 
hand-lanterns  and  flares  when  business  or 
romance  called  them  from  their  evening 
firesides  to  venture  out  upon  the  darkened 
streets  and  lanes.  Even  then  it  was  more 
often  a  bright  moon  or  a  clear  starlit  night 
which  determined  the  extent  of  their  night¬ 
ly  pilgrimages,  for  at  best,  lanterns  were 
only  a  dim  light  and,  during  high  winds, 
were  wholly  ineffectual. 

Up  through  1681  the  interiors  of  houses 
were  lighted  by  pitch-pine  knots  made  into 
crude  candle-like  shapes;  and  a  contem¬ 
plated  destruction  of  the  pine  tree  for  its 
tar  and  pitch  products  wrought  the  inhab¬ 
itants  up  to  a  high  fever  of  excitement,  for 
they  imagined  that  they  would  lose  their 
only  source  of  lighting.  There  were  a  few 
families,  however,  who  were  not  using  these 
smoky  pitch  lights,  but  had  brass  and  iron 
candlesticks  instead  in  which  they  burned 
hand-dipped  tallow  candles. 



Both  tallow  candles  and  those  made  from 
the  sweet-smelling  bayberries,  which  grew 
in  great  abundance,  rapidly  took  the  place 
of  the  pitch-pine  knots,  but  not  before  1820 
did  the  inhabitants  of  Providence  have  a 
street  lamp.  This  lamp  consisted  of  a  large 
glass  box-shaped  top,  set  on  a  ten-foot 
wooden  pole,  and  had  three  wicks  and  a 
small  receptacle  for  whale  oil.  While  many 
of  these  lamps  were  set  up,  they  were  near¬ 
ly  as  unsatisfactory  as  hand  lanterns  and 
were  used  only  up  to  1847,  kerosene  and 
gasoline  later  replacing  the  whale  oil  as 

In  1848,  forty  poles  were  erected  about 
the  old  Cove,  and  gas  lamps  were  installed 
by  the  Providence  Gas  Company,  replacing 
the  former  naptha  lamps  which  in  turn 
were  used  to  replace  whale  oil  lamps  in 
other  sections  of  the  city.  Later,  during 
Charles  M.  Smith’s  term  of  office  as  Light 
Superintendent,  in  1867,  100  pot  lights 
were  set  up,  each  of  them  having  a  pot¬ 
shaped  container  for  gasoline.  At  this  time 
the  crew  of  city  lamp-lighters  had  over  500 
gas  and  gasoline  lights  to  tend  and  could 
be  seen  nightly  making  their  rounds  in 
small  wagons  with  their  ladders  and  cans 
of  fresh  fuel. 

When,  in  1874,  Edwin  E.  Bean  of  Boston 
invented  a  system  whereby  gas  could  be 
lighted  by  electricity  and  atmospheric  pres¬ 
sure,  Providence  was  quick  to  use  the  new 
idea,  and  connected  up  the  forty  lights 
around  the  Cove  to  try  the  new  method. 
The  first  lighting  of  this  sort  was  made  in 
the  form  of  an  exhibition  in  which  the 
mayor  lighted  the  lamps  in  the  circuit  be¬ 
fore  an  audience  of  notables,  but  so  novel 
was  the  procedure  that  for  months  it  held 
the  curiosity  of  crowds  who  went  each  night 
to  the  Cove  to  witness  the  strange  perform¬ 

Among  the  seventy-five  lamp-lighters 
who  made  their  rounds  in  1874  were  two 
of  unusual  interest — the  Rev.  Norman  Bul¬ 
lock,  a  minister  of  the  gospel  whose  church 
was  located  at  Manton  and  Chalkstone 
Avenues,  and  John  C.  Quinn,  a  cripple  who 

later  became  a  lawyer.  From  the  latter 
picturesque  character,  who  by  lighting 
lamps  earned  his  way  through  Brown  Uni¬ 
versity,  we  learn  much  in  a  direct  way  of 
the  situation.  He  says,  “We  used  to  carry  a 
ladder,  weighing  21  pounds,  and  a  con¬ 
tainer  holding  sufficient  fluid  to  light  our 
respective  districts  ....  We  were  paid  .  .  . . 
3%  cents  for  lighting  oil  lamps  and  1% 
cents  for  gas  ....  and  had  eighty  minutes 
to  light  the  lamps  in  our  section,  the  time 
depending  on  the  season  of  year  and  the 
hour  the  moon  came  up.  .  .  .  Winter  or  no 
winter;  blizzard  or  no  blizzard,  you  had  to 
get  the  lights  lit.  .  .  .  There  were  no  streets 
cut  in  many  places,  and  it  was  hard  to  find 
your  way  in  the  dark. 

If  the  moon  was  unusually  bright,  we 
would  have  late  lighting.  The  signal  would 
be  a  flag  flying  from  Prospect  Terrace. 
Later  we  had  to  get  up  and  extinguish  the 
lights  in  the  morning  and  have  them  all 
out  by  four  A.  M.  Policemen  previously 
had  done  this  but  the  number  of  burglaries 

This  account  was  indeed  typical  of  the 
times.  Lamps  were  at  best  very  ineffectual 
as  a  whole,  and  it  must  have  been  with  a 
sense  of  great  relief  that  the  inhabitants 
saw  the  establishment  of  the  first  electric 
carbon  lamps  in  1882.  Installed  by  the 
Rhode  Island,  later  the  Narragansett  Light¬ 
ing  Company,  both  single  and  double  car¬ 
bon  lamps  gradually  replaced  gas,  al¬ 
though  the  latter  was  in  general  use  until 

The  era  of  the  incandescent  lamp  has 
been  quite  short  in  Providence,  dating  only 
from  1901.  Yet  what  wonders  of  illumina¬ 
tion  it  has  caused!  Cities  have  become 
creatures  of  night  as  well  as  day.  The 
dazzling  dowmtown  districts,  the  brilliance 
of  beacons  and  signs,  and  the  ease  with 
which  we  all  turn  on  the  lights  in  our 
homes  are  apt  to  make  us  forget  the  past. 
Yet  there  was  a  past  in  lighting  as  in  every¬ 
thing  else,  a  past  which  though  certainly 
picturesque  can  only  make  us  more  appre¬ 
ciative  of  the  present. 




This  story  has  its  beginning  in  the  mar¬ 
riage  of  Gabriel  Bernon  and  Esther 
LeRoy  at  the  little  town  of  La  Rochelle, 
France,  in  1673.  It  was  a  beautiful  wed¬ 
ding,  one  which  united  two  of  the  most 
influential  of  the  town’s  families  and  yet 
was  a  true  love  match.  And  it  is  the  subse¬ 
quent  career  of  this  young  husband  and 
wife  that  we  shall  attempt  to  follow. 

The  first  few  years  were  passed  joyfully 
enough.  Gabriel  was  frequently  gone  for 
months  on  long  sea  voyages,  but  each 
absence  only  made  his  return  a  happier 
reunion.  After  the  three  children  .  .  . 
little  Gabriel,  Marie,  and  Esther  .  .  .  were 
born  there  was  more  to  bring  the  fiery-eyed 
and  fiery  haired  young  father  back  in 
eagerness  to  La  Rochelle.  Unfortunately 
the  years  of  happiness  came  first.  The  se¬ 
quel  of  later  years  were  made  more  bitter 
because  of  it. 

La  Rochelle  had  long  been  an  oasis, 
safe  from  the  persecution  of  the  Roman 
Catholics,  but  the  town  could  not  hold  out 
forever  against  the  oppression  which 
threatened  its  Huguenot  inhabitants.  Thus 
it  was  that  both  Francois  LeRoy  and  Andre 
Bernon,  the  fathers  of  the  young  couple, 
spoke  to  Gabriel  of  the  bitter  persecution 
and  exile  they  believed  would  soon  come 
and  advised  him  to  transfer  his  young 
family  to  the  New  World,  there  to  make 
a  fresh  start  and  carry  on  the  Huguenot 

It  was  a  sad  yet  brave  parting  when 
Gabriel  Bernon  set  out  for  Quebec  with 
the  hope  of  founding  a  new  home  for  his 
loved  ones.  Tales  of  great  danger  and  suf¬ 
fering  at  Quebec  had  come  to  La  Rochelle, 
and  the  little  family  feared  that  it  might 
never  be  re-united.  But  it  was  not  danger 
from  the  Indians  or  suffering  from  any 
privation  which  Gabriel  had  to  face.  Que¬ 
bec,  in  1685,  was  a  Jesuit  stronghold,  and 
these  fanatical  priests  and  missionaries 
were  only  too  anxious  to  pounce  upon  any 
Protestant  invaders  of  their  territory,  sub¬ 
jecting  them  to  immediate  persecution  and 
exile.  Gabriel  Bernon  was  a  man  of  keen 


vision  and  a  hard  worker,  a  man  needed  by 
the  settlement  in  its  development,  yet  his 
allegiance  to  his  faith  sealed  his  fate  and  he 
was  shipped  back  from  Quebec  to  La  Ro¬ 
chelle.  Here  he  was  confined  at  once  in  the 
Lantern  Tower  of  the  town,  scarcely  having 
time  to  bribe  a  cabin  boy  to  take  a  message 
to  his  wife  before  his  jailers  took  him  from 
the  ship. 

The  news  of  the  imprisonment  came  as 
a  bombshell  into  the  quiet  family  Bernon 
had  left  behind.  At  once  Esther  set  out 
for  the  tower,  and,  after  knocking  at  the 
great  barred  door,  was  secretly  admitted 
to  speak  with  Gabriel.  They  talked  of  ways 
of  escape  if  the  authorities  would  not  grant 
him  his  freedom,  and,  leaving  him  with 
parting  words  of  courage,  Esther  returned 
home  to  plan  the  best  way  of  securing  his 
release.  But  entreaties  were  fruitless.  The 
authorities  were  obdurate.  Only  when 
Gabriel  became  so  sick  that  his  death 
seemed  certain  did  they  let  him  go  to  his 
home  and  the  care  of  his  wife.  Here  the 
first  strategy  was  planned.  The  young 
man  supposedly  grew  worse  and  died,  but 
in  reality  he  regained  his  strength  and  was 
successfully  smuggled  into  Holland,  plan¬ 
ning  to  have  Esther  and  the  children  meet 
him  later  in  England. 

Perhaps  he  would  never  have  left 
La  Rochelle  had  he  known  the  terrors  in 
store  for  his  loved  ones.  The  day  follow¬ 
ing  his  escape  Esther  and  the  children  were 
taken  to  a  convent  where  they  were  kept 
prisoners  and  daily  exhorted  by  the  sisters 
to  renounce  Protestantism.  Worn  out  by 
weeks  of  this  kind  of  torture,  Esther  finally 
feigned  conversion.  So  overjoyed  was  the 
Holy  Mother  with  her  apparent  success  in 
making  a  convert  that  she  left  the  door  of 
Esther’s  cell  open.  It  was  the  awaited 
chance,  and  without  delaying  a  precious 
moment  the  brave  young  woman  slipped 
out  of  the  convent  with  her  children.  For¬ 
tunately  she  was  able  to  j  oin  other  refugees 
immediately  and  continue  her  escape  to 
England,  where  she  located  her  husband. 

But  England  was  only  a  stopping  place, 
though  a  hospitable  one,  and  the  year  1689 


86  South  Main  Street,  Providence, 
Erected  in  1896. 



found  the  little  family  on  the  good  ship 
Dolphin  crossing  the  Atlantic  to  Boston.  In 
the  Massachusetts  town  they  found  a  warm 
welcome.  Plans  were  discussed  for  estab¬ 
lishing  a  French  Colony  near  Worcester. 
Esther  was  overjoyed  at  the  kindliness  of 
her  new  neighbors.  Gabriel  found  plenty  to 
do  in  trying  to  start  the  new  settlement,  and 
the  son,  Gabriel,  had  taken  an  interest  in 
trading  and  was  busily  engaged.  All  seemed 
well,  but  again  the  first  few  pleasant  years 
were  to  give  way  to  troubles  and  persecu¬ 
tion  of  a  new  sort.  The  Huguenots  began 
to  find  themselves  held  in  the  same  disap¬ 
proval  by  the  Boston  Puritans  as  had  Roger 
Williams  and  Anne  Hutchinson.  Finally 
like  these  others,  they  too  turned  southward 
toward  a  colony  where  they  might  find  a 
true  religious  haven. 

To  Newport  came  the  Bernons  in  1698, 
to  the  Newport  that  barred  from  its  wel¬ 
come  neither  Jews  nor  Quakers  and  that 
offered  a  splendid  chance  for  all  with  com¬ 
mercial  ambitions.  With  them  came  others 
of  their  faith,  the  Tourtellots,  and  Dr. 
Ayrault  and  his  family.  Zealously  adher¬ 
ing  to  their  beliefs,  they  only  waited  long 
enough  to  build  homes  and  get  settled  be¬ 
fore  drawing  up  a  petition  to  be  sent  to 
Lord  Bellemont  asking  that  the  Church  of 
England  send  a  minister  to  Newport.  Re¬ 
sponse  to  the  petition  was  both  prompt 
and  constant  and,  through  the  aid  of  Lord 
Bellemont,  the  tiny  Church  of  Trinity  was 

But  though  Newport  provided  a  true 
refuge  from  religious  persecution,  Esther 
LeRoy  was  not  satisfied.  Tired  out  by  all 
the  suffering  to  which  she  had  been  exposed, 
she  wanted  only  to  have  a  quiet  home  with 
her  husband  and  children  about  her. 
Gabriel  was  not  one  to  settle  to  a  quiet 
business  life  in  Newport.  His  keen  mind 
conceived  many  enterprises  which  carried 
him  all  over  Rhode  Island,  keeping  him 
from  home  many  a  day  in  succession.  And 
his  religious  zeal  made  him  only  the  more 
anxious  to  be  ever  travelling  about  the 
countryside,  trying  to  help  the  scattered 
settlers  and  Indians  in  their  understanding 
of  the  Bible  and  doing  his  best  to  establish 
outposts  of  the  Church  of  England.  The 
young  Gabriel,  his  son,  was  also  of  a  most 
active  disposition  and  hardly  inclined  to 
remain  near  at  home.  His  was  the  life  of 

a  sailor  with  long  absences  between  his 
short  visits  to  land.  On  one  of  these  visits, 
however,  Esther  persuaded  him  to  take  her 
across  the  bay  to  Narragansett  and  was  as 
merry  as  a  child  at  the  thought  of  the  excur¬ 

Before  they  started  the  father,  Gabriel 
Senior,  returned  from  Providence  in  time 
to  j  oin  them,  and  the  three  crossed  with  their 
horses  over  the  Jamestown  ferries  to  Narra¬ 
gansett  and  the  Willett  farm.  It  was  a 
beautifully  clear  day  for  such  an  outing, 
and  Esther  found  her  spirits  returning.  At 
the  Willett  farm  they  were  given  refresh¬ 
ments  before  going  on  over  the  fields  and 
rough  roadways  to  the  high  ridge  at  Pet- 
taquamscutt.  Here,  as  they  looked  in  admira¬ 
tion  at  the  gorgeous  view  of  the  ocean  and 
countryside,  the  father  announced  that  they 
were  on  his  own  land,  a  tract  which  he  had 
bought  only  recently.  Then  onward  they 
went,  changing  horses  at  the  farm  of  Henry 
Gardiner,  and  continuing  northward  to 
Wickford  where  they  passed  the  night.  But 
in  the  morning  the  elder  Gabriel  went  on  to 
Providence,  while  Esther  and  her  son  were 
ferried  back  to  Portsmouth.  She  was 
lamenting  her  husband’s  frequent  absences 
once  more,  but  the  young  Gabriel  patiently 
explained  the  constant  labors  of  his  father 
in  behalf  of  religion. 

Poor  Esther!  She  was  unable  to  under¬ 
stand  the  inner  fire  that  drove  her  husband 
to  act  as  a  missionary  to  those  who,  as 
pioneers,  had  become  separated  from  any 
organized  religion.  And  soon  she  was  to 
have  an  added  sorrow,  for  in  1701,  Dr. 
Ayrault  brought  the  terrible  news  of  the 
death  of  young  Gabriel,  drowned  in  a  bliz¬ 
zard  off  Newport.  As  a  last  consolation 
after  this  tragedy  her  thoughts  began  to 
turn  once  more  to  the  happy  days  in  La 
Rochelle.  She  was  never  to  see  France 
again,  but  she  bought  land  in  Wickford  and 
found  solace  in  imagining  that  its  busy 
little  harbor  was  that  of  her  French  home. 
Nine  years  after  the  death  of  her  son  she 
died  and  was  buried  in  the  old  part  of  the 
Newport  Cemetery. 

Two  years  afterwards  Gabriel,  her  hus¬ 
band,  married  Mary  Harris,  the  grand  niece 
of  William  Harris  of  Providence.  For  a 
while  they  lived  in  Wickford,  but  later 
came  to  Providence,  living  near  the  spring. 
Gabriel  also  remembered  La  Rochelle  and 



built  his  house  out  over  the  sidewalk  so 
that  the  people  could  walk  under  its  arches, 
following  the  custom  of  building  in  the  old 
French  town. 

By  this  second  wife  he  had  three  daugh¬ 
ters,  Suzanne,  Mary  and  Eve,  as  well  as 
a  son  Gabriel  who  died  as  an  infant. 
In  1724,  he  again  went  to  England  hoping 
to  get  aid  for  the  establishment  of  a  Church 

of  England  in  Providence.  While  there  he 
was  received  at  court.  He  died  in  1735  at 
the  age  of  91,  and  the  name  Bemon  died 
with  him.  But  his  influence  in  colonial 
Rhode  Island  was  lasting,  and  the  blood 
of  his  proud,  zealous  heart  has  passed  on 
through  the  Tourtelots,  Powells,  Whipples, 
and  Crawfords  to  temper  much  sturdy 
Rhode  Island  stock. 


Throughout  the  world,  ferries  have  ever 
played  a  mighty  part  in  the  development 
of  transportation.  In  early  Colonial  days 
they  were  extensively  used  along  our  Eastern 
seaboard  and,  even  in  these  modern  times, 
there  are  still  many  plying  to  and  fro.  True, 
they  have  changed  in  type,  power  and  carry¬ 
ing  capacity  with  the  passing  years,  and 
many,  of  course,  have  become  obsolete  or 
unnecessary  through  the  building  of 
bridges,  small  at  first,  but  increasing  in  size 
to  the  huge  spans  of  this  modern  day. 

Yet,  despite  the  most  magnificent  achieve¬ 
ments  in  bridge  architecture,  ferries  are  still 
doing  a  steady  and  profitable  business  in 
many  localities.  If  ferries  are  still  an  impor¬ 
tant  means  of  transportation,  how  much 
more  so  they  must  have  been  in  Colonial 
days  when  the  post  roads  ended  on  opposite 
shores  and  the  ferry  was  the  only  means  of 
communication  between. 

Wherever  there  was  a  stream  or  a  body 
of  water  to  be  crossed  they  were  a  vital 
necessity,  but  nowhere  were  they  more 
needed  than  in  our  own  little  State  of  Rhode 
Island,  located  as  it  is  on  both  shores  of  the 
great  inland  waterway,  Narragansett  Bay. 
The  early  settlements  in  Rhode  Island  were 
built  along  its  shores,  on  the  islands  in  its 
waters,  or  on  the  banks  of  the  rivers  empty¬ 
ing  into  it. 

The  first  ferry  boats  were  operated  under 
the  principles  of  the  old  English  common 
law  but  they  were  controlled  by  the  towns 
which  granted  franchises  to  private  owners 
and  operators.  For  a  long  time,  before  the 

business  became  recognized  as  profitable, 
towns  had  great  difficulty  in  obtaining  men 
to  run  the  ferries,  grants  of  land  sometimes 
being  offered  as  an  inducement  to  take  the 
position.  Later  on  we  find  rich  men,  like 
Benjamin  Ellery,  of  Newport,  and  Deputy- 
Governor  Abbott,  of  Providence,  making  ex¬ 
ceptional  efforts  to  secure  ferry  franchises. 

After  the  ferries  became  an  established 
feature,  many  Acts  were  passed  by  the 
Assembly  for  their  management.  By  1690, 
post  riders  were  rated  as  free  passengers  and 
by  1747,  an  Act  provided  that  ferrymen 
must  be  ready  to  transport  passengers  from 
5  A.  M.  to  8  P.  M.,  from  March  10th  to  Sep¬ 
tember  10th,  and  from  6  A.  M.  to  7  P.  M. 
during  the  balance  of  the  year  “if  the 
weather  will  permit  boats  passing.”  How¬ 
ever,  “Physicians,  Surgeons,  Midwives,  and 
Persons  going  to  fetch  Physicians,  Sur¬ 
geons,  or  Midwives  were  to  be  carried  at 
any  Time  of  Night.” 

Also,  by  1747,  laws  required  that  ferry 
wharves  be  well  built  and  kept  in  good 
repair,  that  all  boats  be  good  and  sound, 
and  that  ferrymen  give  good  service.  A  later 
provision  stated  that  each  boat  must  have 
two  good  oars  and  a  boat  hook.  Ferries  had 
to  be  kept  afloat  at  all  times  and  kept  at 
the  ferry  landings  except  when  laid  up  for 
repairs.  The  penalty  for  all  inexcusable 
absences  from  the  landings  was  fixed  at  ten 
dollars  per  hour. 

In  many  instances,  ferrymen  also  kept 
inns  near  their  wharves  and  countless  sub¬ 
terfuges  were  practiced  to  obtain  the  pat¬ 
ronage  of  their  passengers  over  night.  And, 



just  as  often,  the  passengers  would  pretend 
they  were  hurrying  for  a  doctor  in  order  to 
get  quicker  service.  The  ferryman’s  “House 
of  Entertaynement”  was  a  great  conven¬ 
ience,  however,  since  many  of  the  ferries 
were  sailboats  and  favorable  winds  were 
necessary  for  their  operation. 

Ferrymen  were  exempt  from  military 
duty  but  frequently  complaints  were  lodged 
against  them  for  being  absent  from  their 
posts  on  private  business.  Also,  they  were 
often  prone  to  let  their  wharves  and  equip¬ 
ment  fall  into  disrepair.  Many  of  the 
operatives  were  none  too  skillful  in  the  man¬ 
agement  of  their  boats  and  frequently  “pas¬ 
sengers,  masters,  and  servants  were  com¬ 
pelled  to  work  to  disengage  the  ferry,  jump¬ 
ing  into  the  water  to  dislodge  it  from  a  sand 

Ferries  in  Rhode  Island  were  located  at 
the  ends  of  highways  where  good  landings 
were  available  and  where  the  distance  in 
water  travel  was  the  shortest.  As  a  matter 
of  fact,  the  post  roads  were  followers  of 
the  ferries  in  development  and,  in  1715, 
Newport  contracted  for  its  first  paved  street 
between  the  ferry  and  the  Colony  House. 
Towns  were  often  named  for  the  ferries  and, 
for  one  hundred  years,  Howland’s  Ferry, 
established  in  1640  and  the  first  in  Rhode 
Island,  gave  its  name  to  the  present  town  of 

Ferry  owners  with  other  business  interests 
hired  substitute  operatives  to  run  the  ferries 
for  which  they  held  a  franchise.  And  some¬ 
times,  the  younger  members  of  the  family 
did  the  work.  Andrew  Edwards,  who  ran 
the  Red  Bridge  Ferry  in  1695,  was  only 
fourteen  years  old,  and  William  Daggert, 
running  the  same  ferry  in  1770,  was  the 
same  age.  Captain  Eaton  sailed  the  large 
South  Ferry  when  he  was  but  fifteen  years 
of  age. 

The  post  road  was,  at  one  time,  made  to 
cross  as  many  ferries  as  possible  (a  money¬ 
making  scheme,  to  be  sure),  highly  neces¬ 
sary  to  the  success  of  the  ferries.  Yet  the 
roads  were  often  in  terrible  condition. 
Gates  hung  across  many  of  those  which  led 
to  the  ferries  as  late  as  1739. 

By  1743,  wheeled  vehicles  had  become  so 
common  as  to  make  regular  schedules  of 
rates  a  necessity.  Bristol  Ferry,  in  the  fol¬ 
lowing  hundred  years,  got  most  of  this  sort 
of  traffic  and  a  Ferry  Act  of  1844  mentions 

rates  for  a  “coach,  barouche,  wagon,  four- 
wheel  carriage,  chaise  or  sulky,  carryall  or 
pleasure  carriage,  wagon  hung  on  springs, 
or  ox  wagon  or  cart.” 

The  first  ferries  were  rowboats  or  canoes. 
Those  at  James  Street,  Providence,  were 
round  bottomed  with  a  seat  around  the 
sides  capable  of  holding  a  dozen  passengers. 
The  ferryman  used  crossed  oars  and  stood 
up  in  the  middle  of  the  boat  as  he  rowed. 
In  1830,  Bristol  Ferry  had  two  rowboats, 
two  sailboats,  and  one  horse-powered  ferry. 
Most  ferries  usually  kept  several  small 
skiffs  on  hand  for  use  in  transporting  one  or 
two  passengers  at  odd  times. 

Open  sail  boats  of  jib  and  mainsail  type 
were  quite  extensively  used.  They  were 
usually  between  thirty  and  forty  feet  long 
and  were  suitable  for  conveying  small  vehi¬ 
cles  and  cattle  as  well  as  passengers.  These 
sail  boats  were  sluggish,  not  easily  man¬ 
aged,  and  extremely  difficult  to  handle  in 
strong  winds.  Passengers,  advised  by  ferry¬ 
men  not  to  cross  when  the  water  was  too 
rough,  often  thought  the  latter  were  afraid 
but  such  was  seldom  the  case. 

Scows  hauled  across  by  the  aid  of  a  rope, 
a  method  much  used  in  other  sections  of  the 
country  at  this  period,  were  not  of  much 
value  for  use  in  Rhode  Island  waters  where 
the  crossings  were  more  often  rough  than 
otherwise.  However,  a  few  of  this  type  were 
utilized  to  replace  bridges  which  were  tem¬ 
porarily  closed. 

Horse  ferries  were  of  two  kinds,  those 
which  were  fitted  with  a  treadmill  operating 
the  paddlewheels  directly  and  those  in 
which  the  horse  or  ox  trod  a  circular  plat¬ 
form  which  transmitted  power  to  the 
paddles  by  cogs.  One  of  the  later  type  was 
used  for  a  while  at  Jamestown.  These  types, 
however,  were  not  satisfactory,  because  no 
progress  could  be  made  with  them  in  rough 

The  first  steam  ferry  was  operated  by  the 
Boston  and  Providence  Railroad  for  trans¬ 
porting  passengers  from  its  terminal  at 
India  Point  to  the  Stonington  railroad  sta¬ 
tion  at  Pawtuxet  Cove.  By  1873,  Jamestown 
had  a  steam  ferry  of  the  New  York  type  but 
Bristol  did  not  have  steam  power  until  1905 
(due  to  the  effect  of  the  Fall  River  steam 
boats  upon  the  ferry  traffic) . 

Before  the  coming  of  steam  ferries,  the 
ferry  landings  had  been  generally  built  of 



stone,  but  now  slips  of  piles  sunk  in  the  bot¬ 
tom  in  the  shape  of  a  horseshoe  were  found 
more  practical. 

In  olden  days  the  bay  was  often  frozen 
over  solid  in  the  winter  and  at  those  times 
ferries  were,  of  course,  useless.  Sometimes, 
as  in  the  winters  of  1739,  1740  and  1780, 
it  was  possible  to  drive  across  from  Nar- 
ragansett  to  Portsmouth,  or  from  Bristol  to 
Portsmouth  and  Prudence  Island. 

In  Revolutionary  days  the  ferries  were  in¬ 
valuable  for  the  transportation  of  troops 
and  supplies.  It  was  as  important  that  they 
be  kept  running  as  for  the  English  channel 
to  be  kept  open.  Only  during  the  occupa¬ 
tion  of  Newport  by  the  British  were  there 
extended  interruptions  in  the  service.  How¬ 

land’s  Ferry  at  that  time  was  guarded  by  a 
fort  and  barracks. 

Many  of  the  old  ferries  are  now  gone  and 
those  remaining  are  fast  disappearing.  As 
Mount  Hope  Bridge  has  eliminated  the  Bris¬ 
tol  Ferry  so  other  bridges  yet  to  be  built, 
particularly  between  Jamestown  and  New¬ 
port,  will  doubtless  replace  the  famous  old 
ferries  now  in  use  at  the  mouth  of  the  bay. 

This  brief  sketch  is  necessarily  incom¬ 
plete.  As  much  again  might  be  written 
about  each  ferry  that  ever  operated  in 
Rhode  Island  waters.  But,  perhaps,  enough 
has  been  said  to  arouse  an  interest  in  one  of 
the  most  important  means  of  transporta¬ 
tion  in  the  early  development  of  the  State 
and  country. 


WHEN  Goodwin,  the  editor  of  “The  Mac- 
Sparran  Diary,”  in  an  excellent  pref¬ 
ace  called  the  distinguished  divine  of  the 
Narragansett  Church  a  “kind  of  Dr.  John¬ 
son  in  clerical  garb,”  he  made  an  apt  char¬ 
acterization  of  the  Reverend  James  Mac- 
Sparran  that  will  doubtless  be  associated 
with  his  name  in  history  always.  In  the 
prime  of  his  years,  portly  of  stature,  his 
head  covered  by  a  huge  wig,  this  worthy 
Episcopal  churchman  with  his  righteous 
air  of  authority  and  dignity  closely  resem¬ 
bled  Boswell’s  idol.  He  typified  the  finest 
sort  of  cultured  parish  priest,  presiding  over 
his  somewhat  unruly  aristocratic  flock  with 
ability,  firmness,  and  true  religious  zeal. 
Nor  did  his  normal  parochial  boundaries 
limit  the  extent  of  his  ministrations  and  ac¬ 
tivities,  for  he  not  only  aided  other  parishes 
and  clergymen  throughout  Rhode  Island 
and  Connecticut  and  sat  as  an  advisor  in  the 
ecclesiastical  councils  of  Newport  and  Bos¬ 
ton,  but  even  carried  on  a  constant  corre¬ 
spondence  with  the  foremost  churchmen  of 
New  York  and  the  highest  dignitaries  of  the 
Church  of  England. 

There  is  no  positive  evidence  that  James 
MacSparran  was  born  in  Dungiven,  County 

of  Derry,  Ireland,  yet  the  date  of  his  birth, 
September  10,  1693,  is  often  associated 
with  that  town.  It  is  more  probable  that  he 
was  born  in  Scotland,  as  his  distinct  Scot¬ 
tish  lineage  suggests,  and  that  he  was  after¬ 
wards  brought  to  Ireland  by  a  favorite 
uncle.  At  least  he  lived  in  Ireland  long 
enough  to  acquire  the  warm  heart  and  the 
fiery  temper  so  characteristic  of  the  sons  of 
Erin,  and  also  became  enough  of  an  Irish¬ 
man  to  give  way  occasionally  to  those  de¬ 
lightfully  incongruous  slips  of  the  tongue 
known  as  Irish  bulls.  Later  in  his  life, 
when  he  sent  the  diplomas  of  his  Mas¬ 
ter’s  and  Doctor’s  degrees  to  be  recorded  in 
the  parish  register  of  Dungiven,  he  voiced 
a  desire  to  have  his  name  “preserved  in  his 
native  country,”  a  request  that  would  seem 
to  give  credence  to  the  more  popular  theory 
of  his  birth. 

The  name  of  the  MacSparran  family,  a 
branch  of  the  MacDonalds  of  the  Isles,  sup¬ 
posedly  originated  from  a  habit  of  the 
founder  of  the  family  of  wearing  a  sack-like 
apron,  called  a  “sporran,”  in  which  he  car¬ 
ried  money  to  pay  his  retainers.  Because  of 
this  eccentricity,  the  name  MacSparran — 
Son  of  the  Purse — not  only  became  his  clan 
name  but  afterwards  the  surname  of  his 
descendants.  The  MacDonalds  resided  in 



the  Mull  of  Kintyre,  part  of  Scotland  near¬ 
est  to  Ireland,  and  Kintore,  a  recorded  Scot¬ 
tish  home  of  the  MacSparrans,  has  proba¬ 
bly  been  misspelled. 

The  young  James  MacSparran,  whether 
Irish  or  Scotch,  attended  the  University  of 
Glasgow,  from  which,  in  1709,  he  received 
the  degree  of  Master  of  Arts.  He  continued 
by  studying  for  the  Presbyterian  ministry 
and,  within  a  few  years,  obtained  his  cre¬ 
dentials  as  a  licentiate  of  the  Scotch  Presby¬ 
tery.  Just  why  he  decided  to  come  to 
America  is  unknown,  but,  in  1718,  he  land¬ 
ed  in  Boston  at  a  time  when  Cotton  Mather 
was  the  town’s  religious  dictator.  The  two 
clashed  for  some  reason,  and  the  young 
MacSparran  left  Boston  to  visit  a  relative 
in  Bristol. 

Inasmuch  as  the  Congregational  pulpit 
was  vacant  when  he  arrived  in  the  Rhode 
Island  seaport,  he  was  asked  to  occupy  it  on 
the  first  Sunday.  His  physical  appearance, 
brilliant  rhetoric,  and  youthful  ardor  so  im¬ 
pressed  the  parishioners  that  they  invited 
him  to  remain  as  the  regular  pastor  at  a 
stipend  of  £100  per  annum.  Soon,  how¬ 
ever,  a  fierce  controversy,  probably  started 
through  jealousy,  made  him  a  temporary 
victim  of  slander.  Although  he  was  par¬ 
tially  exonerated  in  town  meeting,  his  cre¬ 
dentials  were  still  questioned,  and  in  1719 
he  left  for  Ireland  to  obtain  their  confir¬ 
mation.  His  pastorate  expected  his  return 
the  following  June,  but  when,  in  1721,  he 
did  come  back  it  was  not  to  Bristol  and  it 
was  as  a  presbyter  of  the  Church  of  Eng¬ 
land  and  a  missionary  of  the  Society  for  the 
Propagation  of  the  Gospel  in  Foreign  Parts. 
His  only  allusion  to  this  change  of  status 
appeared  in  “America  Dissected,”  written 
in  the  later  years  of  his  life,  when  he  says: 
“I  have  great  reason  to  thank  God,  that  I 
was  afflicted  and  abused  by  a  false  charge  in 
my  youth,  as  that  opened  me  a  way  into  the 
Christian  priesthood  in  the  most  excellent  of 
all  churches.”  This  statement  and  his  long 
blameless  career  at  Saint  Paul’s,  in  Narra- 
gansett,  eliminates  the  suspicions  originated 
at  Bristol.  While  in  England,  in  1720,  he 
had  been  ordained  to  the  diaconate  in  the 
Church  of  England  by  the  Bishop  of  Lon¬ 
don  and  to  the  priesthood  by  the  Archbish¬ 
op  of  Canterbury,  receiving  a  license  from 
the  former  to  assume  his  ministerial  office 
in  the  Province  of  New  England. 

He  came  to  Narragansett,  but  was  also 
commissioned  to  “officiate,  as  opportunity 
shall  offer,  at  Bristol,  Freetown,  Swansey, 
and  Little  Compton,  where  there  are  many 
people,  members  of  the  Church  of  England, 
destitute  of  a  minister.”  The  parish  of  Saint 
Paul  in  Narragansett,  organized  fifteen 
years  before  his  arrival,  was  practically 
dissolved,  and  at  his  first  communion  he  ad¬ 
ministered  to  but  seven  followers.  Yet  by 
1727  he  had  built  up  a  congregation  of  over 
three  hundred  members.  Like  Dean  Berke¬ 
ley,  who  later  came  often  to  Narragansett 
as  a  guest  pastor,  he  was  especially  zealous 
in  his  ministrations  to  the  Indians  and  ne¬ 
groes  of  the  vicinity  and  instructed  them 
regularly  each  Sunday  before  his  service. 

His  marriage,  in  1722,  to  Hannah  Gardi¬ 
ner,  his  baptism  of  Col.  Daniel  Updike,  At¬ 
torney-General  of  the  Colony,  and  the  ad¬ 
hesion  to  the  church  of  Judge  Francis  Wil- 
let  were  three  events  which  marked  the 
steady  rise  of  his  church  in  social  status. 
Hannah  Gardiner,  only  seventeen  at  the 
time  of  her  marriage,  was  a  beautiful  and 
gifted  member  of  a  powerful  family,  allied 
by  marriage  to  the  even  more  influential 
Robinson  and  Hazard  families,  and  the 
young  preacher  found  himself  welcomed 
and  adopted  into  the  highest  social  circles 
of  the  Colony.  His  young  wife  possessed 
exceptional  qualities  of  mind  and  heart 
which  especially  fitted  her  to  be  his  intimate 
companion  and,  in  1755,  after  her  tragic 
death  in  London,  he  writes  of  her  as  “the 
most  pious  of  women,  the  best  of  wives  in 
the  world.” 

Early  in  his  ministry,  Dr.  MacSparran 
procured  land  on  the  east  side  of  what  was 
later  known  as  MacSparran  Hill  in  South 
Kingston  and  built  the  mansion  known  as 
Glebe  House.  It  was  a  spacious,  gambrel- 
roofed  structure  with  a  long  family  room 
wherein  the  Sunday  services  were  often 
held  during  the  stormy  days  of  winter.  In 
the  south  wing  of  the  house  was  the  doctor’s 
study  and  his  beloved  library. 

This  home  was  a  veritable  shrine  of  hos¬ 
pitality.  Guests  were  always  welcome, 
even  when,  as  it  occasionally  happened,  as 
many  as  nine  arrived  unexpectedly  at  din¬ 
ner  time.  In  the  “Great  Room”  Dean  Berke¬ 
ley  was  often  entertained  and  John  Smibert, 
the  artist,  fresh  from  a  sojourn  in  Italy, 
who  brought  the  sunshine  and  culture  of 



that  Latin  country  to  the  MacSparran  home 
in  his  fascinating  discourses  on  art  and  poe¬ 
try.  It  was  he,  too,  who  later  painted  por¬ 
traits  of  both  the  Doctor  and  his  charming 
wife.  These  two,  Berkeley  and  Smibert,  were 
among  the  outstanding  visitors  to  this  hos¬ 
pitable  home,  yet  many  from  the  parish  and 
social  circles  of  Narragansett  always  found 
a  welcome  at  its  door. 

Doctor  MacSparran  was  a  man  of  diver¬ 
sified  temperament,  but  his  virtues  were 
predominant.  He  despised  lay-reading  and 
the  preachers  who  had  not  been  born  in  Ire¬ 
land  or  England,  and  was  rather  narrow 
and  bigoted  in  his  belief  in  the  exalted 
station  of  his  church  and  his  religion.  How¬ 
ever,  his  diary  reveals  him  as  a  very  human 
person,  warm-hearted,  sincere  in  his  zeal, 
and  faithful  both  to  earthly  ties  and  the 
greater  bond  with  God.  He  highly  deserved 
the  praise  which  the  University  of  Oxford 
gave  him  in  the  form  of  an  honorary  doc¬ 
tor’s  degree  in  1736. 

His  labors  were  not  entirely  confined  to 
religion,  for  he  acquired  quite  a  reputation 
as  a  doctor  in  the  medical  sense  of  the  term. 
He  worked  (when  there  was  need)  in  the 
fields  along  with  some  of  his  servants  and 
parishioners  and  was  not  above  aiding  in 
many  kinds  of  menial  labor,  although  his 
aristocratic  tendencies  did  not  make  such 
occasions  too  frequent.  In  1751  he  preached 
the  sermon  before  the  court  on  Tower  Hill, 

vigorously  indicting  the  murderer,  Thomas 

England,  which  he  had  left  behind,  was 
always  in  his  mind  the  promised  land  to 
which  he  hoped  to  return,  and,  in  1754,  he 
made  a  second  trip  to  the  British  Isles,  tak¬ 
ing  his  wife  with  him  and  hoping  to  make 
some  provision  for  remaining  there  the  rest 
of  his  life  or  for  becoming  a  bishop  in 
America.  The  journey  was  totally  disast¬ 
rous  in  all  respects.  There,  in  London,  in 
1755,  his  beloved  wife  succumbed  to  small¬ 
pox  and  was  buried  in  the  little  Broadway 
Chapel  burying  ground  near  Victoria  Street 
in  Westminster.  He  could  not  gain  a  place 
in  England  and  the  dignitaries  of  the 
church  were  not  yet  ready  to  ordain  a  bishop 
in  America. 

Sad,  broken  in  spirit,  and  with  only  the 
shadow  of  his  former  vigor,  he  returned  to 
his  Narragansett  parish,  dying  there  about 
two  years  later.  And,  after  the  manner  of 
his  diary,  some  kindly  hand  wrote  on  the 
Narragansett  Parish  Register:  “On  ye  5th 
day  of  December  A.  D.  1757  ye  Rev.  Doctor 
James  MacSparran  died  at  his  house  in 
South  Kingston,  who  was  minister  of  St. 
Paul’s  Church  in  ye  Narragansett  for  ye 
space  of  Thirty  Seven  years,  and  was  de¬ 
cently  interred  under  ye  Communion  Table 
in  said  Church,  on  ye  sixth  day  of  said 
month,  Much  Lamented  by  his  Parishioners 
and  all  whom  he  had  Acquaintance  with.” 


TO  have  been  a  signer  of  the  Declaration 
of  Independence  is  not  in  itself  a  dis¬ 
tinction  which  should  entitle  a  man  to  fame. 
That  the  men  who  did  sign  this  stirring  dec¬ 
laration  were  distinguished  is  another  mat¬ 
ter.  William  Ellery,  Jr.,  himself,  in  speak¬ 
ing  of  the  case  of  another  correspondent, 
who  had  publicly  vindicated  his  slighted 
claim  of  being  among  the  signers,  said,  “My 
name  is  there  and,  I  believe,  in  every  list 
that  has  been  printed.  If  it  had  not  been 
inserted  in  any  of  them,  I  question  whether 
I  should  have  taken  the  same  pains  to  estab¬ 
lish  the  fact  as  he  has  done.  I  should  have 
left  it  to  others,  I  believe,  to  prove  it.” 

This  evidence  of  reticence  is  exceedingly 
commendable  to  this  sturdy  Rhode  Islander 
and  should  have  the  effect  of  making  us 
anxious  to  know  more  about  him. 

The  first  of  the  Ellerys  settled  in  Bristol, 
Rhode  Island,  near  the  close  of  the  17th 
century.  Here  William  Ellery,  Senior,  was 
born  in  1701.  After  graduating  from  Har¬ 
vard  College  in  1722,  he  took  up  his  resi¬ 
dence  in  Newport,  becoming  one  of  its  lead¬ 
ing  merchants  and  a  close  friend  of  such 
men  as  Abraham  Redwood,  Peleg  Brown, 
Nathaniel  Kay,  Henry  Collins,  Thomas 
Hazard,  and  Abraham  Whipple.  That  he 
was  a  man  well-liked  in  the  prosperous  and 
popular  seaport  was  evident,  for  he  was 



chosen  to  fill  such  offices  as  Judge,  Assis¬ 
tant  Governor,  and  Deputy-Governor.  His 
love  of  civil  and  religious  liberty  was  the 
key-note  to  his  whole  character. 

William,  his  second  son,  was  born  in 
Newport,  December  22,  1727,  and  lived  in 
that  town  until  1743,  the  year  in  which  he, 
too,  entered  Harvard  College.  While  little 
enough  is  known  of  his  college  career,  it 
was  there  that  he  acquired  his  first  love  for 
the  classics,  Greek,  Latin,  and  French,  and 
there  he  laid  the  foundation  for  that  tem¬ 
pered  philosophy  of  life  that  was  to  be  his 
mark  of  distinction.  Due  to  the  social 
prominence  of  his  own  family  in  Newport, 
he  was  well-received  in  the  social  circles  of 
Cambridge.  In  the  four  years  of  study  he 
grew  to  love  both  his  Alma  Mater  and  the 
charming  society  which  had  adopted  him, 
and  Cambridge  became  his  “second”  home 
throughout  the  rest  of  his  life.  After  having 
returned  to  Newport  and  established  him¬ 
self  as  a  merchant  there,  he  went  back  to 
Cambridge  in  1750  to  marry  Ann  Reming¬ 
ton,  a  daughter  of  one  of  the  justices  of  the 
Massachusetts  Superior  Court.  His  family 
life  was  always  very  beautiful,  for  he  was  a 
devoted  husband  and  father. 

However,  this  first  wife  died  in  1764,  and 
three  years  later  William  Ellery,  Jr.,  mar¬ 
ried  again.  He  engaged  in  many  pursuits  in 
the  town  of  Newport,  being  at  one  time 
Naval  Officer  of  the  Colony,  but  it  was  not 
until  1770  that  he  began  to  practice  law. 

William  Ellery  had  no  outstanding  qual¬ 
ities  other  than  those  which  ever  mark  the 
true  gentleman.  He  was  sincere,  sound  of 
sense,  and  thorough  in  his  love  of  freedom. 
Although  “freedom”  was  the  general  de¬ 
mand  of  all  the  colonists  at  that  time,  his 
love  of  liberty  was  not  built  upon  the  shift¬ 
ing  sands  of  public  sentiment  but  upon  the 
firm  resolutions  deduced  from  his  own  re¬ 
flections  and  experiences.  For  that  reason 
he  placed  his  own  obligations  to  uphold 
liberty  as  high  as  those  which  bound  him 
to  his  wife  and  children.  He  was  no  dream¬ 
er,  but  believed  that  rights  went  hand  in 
hand  with  duties.  Although  he  joined  in  the 
agitation  against  the  Stamp  Act,  knew  the 
leaders  of  the  movement  toward  independ¬ 
ence,  and  served  on  important  committees 
to  procure  the  repeal  of  oppressive  English 
revenue  acts,  his  active  political  life  did 
not  rightly  begin  until  1776. 

In  that  year  he  went  to  Congress  as  a  del¬ 
egate  from  Newport,  Rhode  Island.  On 
the  14th  of  May,  he,  along  with  Stephen 
Hopkins  of  Providence,  Rhode  Island,  be¬ 
came  one  of  that  distinguished  group  of 
gentlemen  who  set  their  signatures  after 
the  Declaration  of  Independence.  He  real¬ 
ized  to  the  full  the  responsibility  involved 
in  such  an  act  but  was  cheerfully  prepared 
to  face  it.  While  the  others  came  up  to  affix 
their  signatures,  he  stood  by  the  side  of 
Secretary  Charles  Thomas,  watching  the 
expressions  on  their  faces,  and  felt  that 
those  sturdy  Americans,  his  compatriots, 
were  equal  to  the  crisis. 

From  1771  to  1786  with  the  exception  of 
the  years  1780  and  1782,  he  remained  in 
Congress.  At  that  time  a  delegate  to  Con¬ 
gress  did  not  have  any  more  dignity  or 
power  than  that  which  he  already  held 
in  his  own  right.  Perhaps,  because  his  po¬ 
litical  career  was  not  in  any  way  extraordi¬ 
nary,  not  much  is  known  about  this 
period  of  his  life.  He  served  on  many  com¬ 
mittees,  the  most  important  being  the  Ma¬ 
rine  Committee  and  the  Board  of  Admiralty 
of  the  Navy  Department,  a  board  made  up 
of  three  commissioners  and  two  delegates 
from  Congress,  whose  duty  was  to  super¬ 
vise  the  naval  and  marine  affairs  of  the 
young  United  States. 

But  a  complete  knowledge  of  the  political 
career  of  William  Ellery,  Jr.,  is  not  neces¬ 
sary  to  an  appreciation  of  the  man  himself. 
He  lived  a  full  life  outside  of  politics  in 
which  his  character  was  perhaps  more  truly 

During  the  years  he  passed  in  Congress 
he  kept  a  minute  diary  of  his  journeys 
(made  on  horseback)  to  and  from  Wash¬ 
ington,  noting  everything  of  importance 
about  the  inns,  roads,  fees,  and  all  that 
happened  on  the  way. 

In  1776,  after  having  reached  an  inn 
which  he  and  his  companions  thought 
might  be  attacked  by  the  English,  he 
writes:  “.  .  .  In  the  first  place,  we  fortified 
our  stomachs  with  beef  steaks  and  some 
strong  drink  and  then  went  to  work  to 

fortify  ourselves  against  an  attack . 

W.  E.  was  so  solaced  with  the  beef,  etc., 
that  every  trace  of  fear  was  utterly  erased 
from  his  imagination,  and  he  slept  soundly.” 

Again,  in  speaking  of  the  condition  of 
one  of  these  wayside  taverns,  he  notes  in  his 



journal:  “The  room  admitted  cold  air  at 
1000  chinks,  and  our  narrow  bed  had  on  it 
only  one  rug  and  one  sheet.  We  went  to  bed 
almost  completely  dressed,  but  even  that 
would  not  do  .  .  .  Our  fellow  lodgers  suf¬ 
fered  as  much  as  we  did;  and,  if  they  had 
read  Tristram  Shandy’s  chapter  of  curses 
and  had  remembered  it,  would  have  cursed 
our  landlady  through  his  whole  category 
of  curses.” 

But  to  proceed  with  a  characterization  of 
the  man.  In  person,  he  was  a  man  of  mod¬ 
erate  height  with  a  large  forehead,  well- 
formed  head,  and  features.  His  counten¬ 
ance  was  thoughtful  and  attentive;  his 
speech  quiet  and  impressive,  and  his  step 
measured  and  slow.  His  dress  was  very 
plain  yet  becoming,  being  neither  in  the 
extreme  mode  nor  yet  old-fashioned  for  the 
times.  His  manners  were  cordial  and  deli¬ 
cate  without  the  stupidity  of  excessive 

Besides  being  a  trusted  man,  intelligible 
in  word  and  deed,  prudent,  straight-forward, 
practical,  independent,  and  consistent,  he 
was  also  witty,  extremely  good-humored,  an 
easy  conversationalist  and  a  clever  satirist. 
When  Congress  needed  some  good  wit  to 
ridicule  its  arrogance  or  to  suppress  its  use¬ 
less  argument,  William  Ellery,  Jr.,  was 
most  emphatically  required,  and  more  than 
one  bored  delegate  from  another  State  was 
not  slow  to  say  so.  He  was  not  a  born 
speaker  and  at  first  was  the  victim  of  his 
own  diffidence.  However,  after  repeated  ef¬ 
forts  to  improve  himself,  he  became  a  good 
debater  if  not  an  orator.  Writing,  in  1815, 
of  this  period  of  his  life,  he  says:  “You 
have  discovered  a  large  bundle  of  letters, 
written  by  me  to  your  father  (from  Con¬ 
gress).  Have  mercy  upon  them!  I  was  a 
Whig  then.  Now  I  am  called  a  Tory.  They 
must  be  shown  to  no  one.  I  am  afraid  they 
are  full  of  fire.  I  am  glad  to  find  that,  hav¬ 
ing  passed  through  many  fiery  trials,  I  am 
now  happy  in  my  tranquil  apartment  with 
but  little  of  the  inflammability  which  my 
Whiggism  excited,  but  still  a  staunch  friend 
to  political  liberty  and  that  liberty  with 
which  the  Gospel  has  made  us  free.”  He 
was,  in  fact,  a  Whig  during  the  Revolution 
and  a  Federalist  thereafter. 

In  1786  he  left  Congress  and  political 

life.  During  the  war  his  home  had  been 
burned  and  his  family  driven  back  to  the 
mainland.  He  returned  to  a  Newport  whose 
trade,  wealth,  and  renown  had  been  shat¬ 
tered,  and  at  the  age  of  60  began  business 
anew,  starting  out  in  the  closing  years  of  his 
life  to  provide  for  his  children.  He  held  the 
office  of  Collector  of  Customs  for  the  Dis¬ 
trict  of  Newport  from  1790  until  his  death. 

After  retiring  from  active  participation 
in  politics,  he  spent  a  great  deal  of  time 
writing  in  behalf  of  public  faith  and  effi¬ 
cient  government,  thereby  causing  much 
argument  and  attention.  Yet,  he  soon  relin¬ 
quished  even  that  slight  interest  in  politics. 
He  was  an  astute  theologian,  yet  advocated 
no  fixed  creed.  While  he  was  a  diligent 
student  of  the  Bible,  a  supporter  of  charity 
and  religious  freedom,  he  belonged  to  no 
church,  but  worshipped  with  the  Congrega- 
tionalists.  “I  believe,”  he  said,  “If  party 
names  were  entirely  disused,  there  would  be 
more  harmony  among  Christians.” 

War  he  abhorred,  although  in  Congress 
he  recommended  that  General  Greene  re¬ 
ceive  appropriate  recognition  for  his  gal¬ 
lant  services  in  the  Revolution  and,  later  on, 
applauded  Perry’s  victory.  Yet  he  was  not 
a  hero  worshiper  for  he  believed  that  “mon¬ 
ey  raised  for  celebration  for  heroes,  where 
towns  were  merely  trying  to  outdo  each 
other  in  splendor,  might  better  be  given  to 
the  families  of  the  dead  or  disabled.”  Re¬ 
ferring  to  Napoleon,  in  1812,  he  writes: 
“How  long  this  dreadful  scourge  will  be 
suffered  to  lay  waste  and  destroy,  the  Lord 
only  knoweth.” 

The  best  and  closing  years  of  his  life 
were  spent  in  his  beloved  literary  pursuits. 
His  moderate  and  well-sustained  habits,  the 
result  of  self-discipline,  begun  late  in  his 
life,  carried  him  in  full  vigor  to  the  end  of 
his  life  when  he  died,  in  1820,  at  the  age 
of  ninety-three. 

Modest,  composed,  retrospective,  a  man 
beloved  of  the  young  and  old,  strong  in  his 
beliefs  yet  open-minded,  he  was  not  content 
with  superficiality  in  either  his  most  per¬ 
sonal  or  impartial  opinions  and  research 
and  typified  always  the  splendid  type  of 
quiet-tempered  and  cultured  gentleman 
who  is  a  joy  and  an  asset  to  any  generation 
or  century. 




IN  this  day,  when  the  waters  in  and  around 
Rhode  Island  have  to  be  stocked  peri¬ 
odically  to  maintain  their  supply  of  fish 
for  both  professional  and  amateur  fisher¬ 
men,  it  should  be  of  some  interest,  especi¬ 
ally  to  such  native  Izaak  Waltons  as  may 
be  left,  to  look  back  to  the  Rhode  Island  of 
yesterday,  when  the  idea  of  stocking  ponds 
and  streams  with  trout,  salmon,  or  bass 
would  have  hailed  as  an  absurdity.  As  a 
matter  of  fact,  none  of  the  early  settlers 
in  the  State  could  have  been  expected  to 
have  foreseen  a  day  when  any  such  pro¬ 
cedure  would  be  necessary.  The  Rhode  Is¬ 
land  of  the  day  of  the  Norsemen,  of  Verraz- 
zano,  and  of  Roger  Williams  was  a  sports¬ 
man’s  paradise.  The  woods  were  full  of  all 
kinds  of  game;  the  ground  was  unusually 
fertile  and  supported  a  luxuriant  vegeta¬ 
tion;  and  the  waters  teemed  with  fish.  But 
the  men  and  women  of  that  day  did  not  look 
at  all  these  natural  advantages  with  the 
eyes  of  sportsmen.  To  them,  the  game,  fish, 
and  fertile  soil  symbolized  a  good  living — 
food  which  could  be  easily  secured. 

Thus,  for  more  than  two  centuries,  the 
inhabitants  of  the  Colony  applied  them¬ 
selves  to  the  extravagant  consumption  of 
their  natural  resources,  assuming  them  to 
be  inexhaustible.  Only  at  the  end  of  that 
time  did  they  take  serious  notice  of  the  re¬ 
sults  of  their  wastefulness.  And  then  the 
natural  stock  of  fish  had  been  so  far  de¬ 
pleted  that  even  the  strictest  conservation 
had  little  effect.  Breeding  more  fish  to  re¬ 
stock  the  waters  was  the  only  solution. 

The  first  law  on  fishing  was  passed  in 
1640  by  the  Aquidneck  (later  the  Rhode 
Island)  Colony  and  stated  that  inhabitants 
of  Newport  might  fish  to  their  hearts’  con¬ 
tent  in  Newport  waters.  Kingston  and  other 
towns  along  the  Pettaquamscutt  River 
formed  similar  laws  for  their  inhabitants 
before  the  close  of  the  century.  Interference 
with  those  who  made  their  living  by  fishing 

was  forbidden  under  the  most  severe  pen¬ 
alties.  However,  a  section  of  the  King 
Charles  Charter  of  1663  best  illustrates  the 
general  attitude  toward  the  question  of  fish¬ 
ing  and  fishing  rights.  It  reads  as  follows : 

“We  do  ...  .  ordain  and  appoint  that 
these  presents  shall  not,  in  any  measure, 
hinder  any  of  our  loving  subjects,  whatso - 
ever,  from  using  and  exercising  the  trade 
of  fishing  upon  the  coast  of  New  England, 
in  America,  but  they  may,  and  any  or  every¬ 
one  of  them,  shall  have  full  and  free  power 
and  liberty  to  continue  and  use  the  trade  of 
fishing  upon  the  said  coast,  in  any  of  the 
seas  thereunto  adjoining  or  any  arms  of  the 
seas,  or  salt-water,  rivers,  and  creeks  where 
they  have  been  accustomed  to  fish,  and  to 
build  and  set  upon  the  waste  land  belonging 
to  the  said  Colony  and  Plantations  such 
wharves,  stages  and  work-houses  as  shall  be 
necessary  for  the  salting,  drying,  and  keep¬ 
ing  of  their  fish  to  be  taken  or  gotten  upon 
the  coast” 

This  was  literally  a  royal  invitation  to 
make  the  most  of  the  fishing  at  hand,  and  it 
was  accepted  thoroughly. 

In  1719,  a  temporary  special  statute  was 
passed  by  the  General  Assembly  forbidding 
the  further  construction  of  dams  and  other 
obstructions  across  streams  which  prevented 
the  free  passage  of  fish.  Under  this  law,  in¬ 
dividual  Town  Councils  were  made  respon¬ 
sible  for  its  infringements  within  their  pre¬ 
cincts.  In  1735,  seining  and  trapping  were 
restricted  to  certain  months  of  the  year  and 
entirely  forbidden  during  Saturday,  Sun¬ 
day,  and  Monday  of  each  week,  while  line¬ 
fishing  was  only  forbidden  on  Sundays.  Yet 
such  legislation,  with  the  many  varying 
amendments  through  the  years,  was  of  no 
actual  benefit  to  either  seiners  or  line-fisher¬ 
men,  and  a  rivalry  between  the  two  classes 
for  protective  legislation  sprang  up. 

In  1761,  we  find  a  new  method  of  dealing 
with  the  problem  of  falls  and  dams  across 
rivers.  The  people  north  of  Pawtucket 
Falls  petitioned  the  legislature  for  permis¬ 
sion  to  run  a  lottery  to  raise  money  for  the 



construction  of  a  tunnel  through  the  Falls, 
or  a  channel  around  them,  through  which 
fish  could  pass  from  the  lower  into  the  up¬ 
per  waters.  The  petition  was  granted,  and 
£1500  was  raised  to  build  what  was  called 
a  “fish-way.”  The  obstruction  problem  at 
John  Arnold’s  dam,  higher  up  on  the  river 
at  Woonsocket,  had  been  solved  in  a  similar 
manner,  through  the  building  of  a  trench 
through  which  fish  could  pass.  Later,  in 
1768,  the  Town  of  Providence  appointed 
men  to  go  to  Pawtucket  and  lay  out 
a  piece  of  land  to  be  used  as  a  common,  with 
a  road  into  it,  for  the  Town’s  free  fishing. 

A  legislative  committee  attempted  to 
make  a  survey  of  all  the  fisheries  in  1766, 
but  without  success.  In  1785,  a  serious  quar¬ 
rel  arose  between  the  Colonies  of  Rhode  Is¬ 
land  and  Connecticut  over  the  weirs  which 
their  respective  towns  on  either  side  of  the 
Pawcatuck  River  had  constructed.  In  the 
fight  for  rights  a  group  of  Rhode  Islanders 
drove  a  Connecticut  captain  and  his  men 
to  Stonington  and  mobbed  them.  The  mat¬ 
ter  was  laid  before  the  respective  legisla¬ 
tives  bodies  of  the  two  Colonies  for  settle¬ 
ment  and  commissions  to  deal  with  it  were 
appointed.  However,  before  anything  could 
be  decided,  the  fish  all  died,  causing  the 
death  of  the  issue  as  well.  This  was  a  direct 
result  of  the  increase  of  manufacturing  and 
the  consequent  building  of  dams.  Ever  since 
1735,  the  colonists  had  become  reconciled 
to  such  encroachments  of  their  fishing  priv¬ 
ileges,  due  to  the  greater  revenue  from  man¬ 
ufacturing,  and  now  they  suddenly  realized 
that  even  the  building  of  fish-ways  around 
such  obstructions  had  had  little  result.  (This 
was  because  any  fish- ways  which  interfered 
with  private  manufacturing  interests  were 
quietly  legislated  out  of  existence.)  And, 
after  1857,  the  legislature  abandoned  the 
question  of  fish-ways  entirely. 

There  had  been  laws  restricting  the  taking 
of  fish  out  of  the  State  by  non-residents.  How¬ 
ever,  most  of  the  laws  up  to  this  time  applied 
only  to  fresh  water  fish.  Smelts  were  the 
first  salt-water  fish  to  receive  protection, 
and  this  was  not  until  1857.  A  commission, 
appointed  the  previous  year  to  look  into  the 
causes  of  the  diminishing  fish  supply,  re¬ 
ported  that  fish  were  as  plentiful  as  ever, 
but  its  investigation  was  not  very  complete. 
Certain  kinds  of  fish  were  still  abundant  and 
that  seemed  to  be  enough.  That  other  kinds 

were  fast  disappearing  was  only  to  evident, 
yet  there  was  no  official  talk  of  re-stocking. 
Scup  was  then  plentiful  off  West  Island  and 
Seakonnet  Point,  as  were  also  bluefish  and 

In  1870,  the  Commission  of  Inland  Fish¬ 
eries  was  established,  but  its  duties  were 
only  to  look  after  fresh  water  stock.  Mean¬ 
while  the  constant  arguments  went  on  be¬ 
tween  trappers  and  seiners  and  line-fisher¬ 
men.  It  was  inevitable  that  the  former 
should  win  out,  because  people  were  de¬ 
manding  more  and  more  fish  as  food  and 
only  large  scale  methods  of  catching  fish 
were  practical.  A  concession  was  made  to 
the  line-fishermen’s  demands  by  instituting 
a  weekly  closed  period  for  trapping  and 
seining,  but  the  results  were  negligible.  In 
1879,  the  Commission  of  Inland  Fisheries 
was  also  give  full  jurisdiction  over  all  the 
bay  fisheries. 

Official  attention  toward  re-stocking  the 
waters  first  appeared  in  1868,  when  salmon 
were  raised  and  put  in  the  rivers.  This  fish 
did  not  breed  well,  however,  and  soon  disap¬ 
peared.  Black  bass  were  then  introduced 
from  out  of  the  State  and  thrived  in  Rhode 
Island  waters.  The  idea  of  re-stocking, 
though  not  given  legislative  support  until 
so  late,  had  originated  privately  in  1825 
with  the  Society  for  the  Encouragement  of 
Domestic  Industries.  This  society  did  the 
best  it  could,  giving  premiums  for  the  breed¬ 
ing  and  fattening  of  fish,  but  its  small  efforts 
passed  without  official  recognition,  until 
necessity  forced  the  State  to  adopt  the  plan 
itself.  Probably  the  single  and  constant 
labor  of  Newton  Dexter,  a  member  of  the 
Inland  Fisheries  Commission  and  a  lover  of 
fishing  as  a  sport,  did  more  to  establish  the 
present  methods  of  regularly  re-stocking 
rivers  and  streams  than  anything  else.  Fish 
for  re-stocking  were  obtained  from  the 
United  States  Fish  Commission  and  con¬ 
sisted  mainly  of  shad,  trout,  and  black  bass. 
And  this  method  of  keeping  up  the  supply 
has  continued  to  the  present,  being  the  only 
way  after  all. 

In  all  this  survey,  one  thing  is  dominant, 
that  nothing  was  done  officially  for  the  pro¬ 
tection  of  one  of  Rhode  Island’s  greatest 
natural  industries  until  forced  by  necessity. 
Lobsters  were  not  protected  until  1881,  and 
then  they  were  fast  disappearing.  It  has 
been  the  same  with  other  natural  sources  of 



supply  throughout  the  country.  The  buffalo, 
beaver,  wood  pigeon,  and  timber  all  ex¬ 
isted  in  vast  quantities  for  the  benefit  of  the 
early  settlers  and  western  pioneers.  And 
they  have  been  used  prodigally  and  wasted, 
until  within  a  comparatively  short  time  ago. 

If  there  is  any  moral,  it  is  the  one  which 
should  inspire  a  foresightedness  in  the  con¬ 
servation  of  all  sources  of  natural  supply, 
something  which,  had  it  been  applied  some 
centuries  earlier,  might  have  been  bearing 
rich  fruits  today. 


ONE  of  the  most  romantic  figures  in  all 
Rhode  Island  history  was  Hannah 
Robinson,  whose  name  has  been  immortal¬ 
ized  because  of  her  association  with  the  so- 
called  “Hannah’s  Rock,”  a  shrine  which  has 
been  visited  by  many  who  have  heard  the 
touching  story  of  her  undying  love  for  a 
faithless  husband.  In  1746,  Mr.  Roland 
Robinson,  Hannah’s  father,  built  a  beauti¬ 
ful  homestead,  which  is  still  standing  and 
occupied,  just  off  the  Boston  Neck  Road 
about  five  miles  north  of  Narragansett  Pier, 
not  far  from  the  “Old  South  Ferry.” 

It  was  in  this  year,  also,  that  Hannah  was 
born.  Soon  after  her  birth  a  colored  child 
was  born  to  one  of  the  family  slaves  and  she 
was  called  “Hannah”  after  her  young  mis¬ 
tress,  for  as  soon  as  she  was  old  enough  she 
was  made  the  young  lady’s  special  maid. 
Later  another  daughter  came  into  the  family 
and  she  was  called  Mary.  William,  the 
brother,  followed  about  thirteen  years  after 
the  birth  of  his  sister  Hannah. 

In  her  happy,  prosperous  home,  Hannah 
Robinson  grew  into  young  ladyhood,  and 
her  father,  anxious  to  give  his  children  the 
best  possible  education,  sent  her  to  a  famous 
school  in  Newport,  a  school  for  young 
ladies,  kept  by  a  Madam  Osborne. 

Hannah  Robinson  was  so  good  and  so 
beautiful  and  so  full  of  grace  of  mind  and 
personality  that  she  seems  more  like  a  myth 
than  a  real  person.  Mrs.  Turrell,  a  descend¬ 
ant,  says  of  her,  that  she  “was  rather  above 
medium  height,  with  a  clear  complextion 
delicately  tinted  with  rose;  dark  hazel  eyes, 
Grecian  features  of  the  finest  mould 
throughout;  a  faultless  head  of  auburn  hair, 
swan-like  neck  and  shoulders,  a  lovely  ex¬ 
pression,  and  of  an  incomparable  grace  in 
speech,  manner  and  carriage.”  Certainly 

all  traditions  are  that  she  was  the  most  beau¬ 
tiful  girl  in  the  American  Colonies,  and  it 
does  not  seem  strange  that  her  father  should 
have  had  great  ambitions  for  her  future. 

Hannah,  then,  in  all  the  first  bloom  of  her 
beauty,  entered  this  select  school  in  New¬ 
port,  and  there  it  was  that  she  met  M.  Pierre 
Simond,  who  taught  dancing  and  French. 
He  was  the  son  of  an  old  Huguenot  family 
of  some  note,  and  Mrs.  Turrell  writes  of  him 
that  “He  was  of  pleasing  person  and  seduc¬ 
tive  manners.” 

It  is  probably  true  that  from  the  first 
moment  of  their  meeting  Hannah  Robinson 
and  the  young  Frenchman  fell  deeply  in 
love,  and  that  they  exchanged  pledges  of  af¬ 
fection.  The  young  people  managed  to  meet 
occasionally  outside  of  classes,  and  so  the 
time  went  on  until  Hannah  was  to  return  to 
her  father’s  house. 

Hannah  knew  well,  and  Simond  realized, 
that  Mr.  Robinson,  with  all  his  pride  and 
his  ambition  for  his  daughter,  would  never 
sanction  their  marriage,  and  when  the  time 
drew  near  for  them  to  part  they  were  very 
sad.  But  Hannah  had  an  uncle,  William 
Gardiner.  It  is  said  that,  as  a  son  of  a  sec¬ 
ond  marriage  of  Hannah’s  grandfather,  he 
was  scarcely  older  than  his  lovely  niece, 
and  certain  it  was  that  he  had  a  warm,  ro¬ 
mantic  heart  and  aided  the  lovers.  He 
employed  Simond  in  his  home  to  teach  his 
young  sons,  and  thus  made  it  possible  for 
the  young  couple  to  meet  without  her 
father’s  knowledge. 

It  is  said  that  Mrs.  Robinson  divined  Han¬ 
nah’s  infatuation  for  her  lover,  and  did  all 
that  she  could  to  dissuade  her  from  it,  but 
finding  that  all  persuasion  useless  and  that 
her  daughter’s  very  health  was  menaced  by 
any  thought  of  separation,  she  reluctantly 
condoned  their  meeting.  The  old  house  is 
full  of  cup-boards,  the  most  famous  being 



the  one  in  which  Hannah  once  hid  her  lover. 
He  was  calling  upon  her  in  the  absence  of 
her  father,  with  her  mother’s  knowledge, 
when  they  heard  her  father’s  steps  ap>- 
proaching.  He  had  returned  home  and  true 
to  his  invariable  custom  sought  his  daugh¬ 
ter  to  bid  her  an  affectionate  goodnight. 
There  was  but  one  thing  to  do  and  Miss  Han¬ 
nah  did  it!  She  thrust  the  young  Frenchman 
into  her  clothes-closet,  and  there  he  re¬ 
mained  safely  hid  until  she  had  received  her 
father’s  good-night  kiss  and  the  coast  was 
clear  for  his  departure. 

But  when  Hannah  remained  so  unat¬ 
tracted  by  other  suitors  Mr.  Robinson’s  sus¬ 
picions  were  aroused.  One  night  he  stepped 
to  his  front  door  for  a  breath  of  fresh  air, 
and  as  he  stood  there  was  surprised  to 
see  a  bit  of  white  paper  fluttering  down  from 
Hannah’s  chamber.  Under  the  windows  of 
her  room  grew  great  lilac  bushes — there  are 
still  great  lilac  bushes  at  this  old  house — 
and,  filled  with  rage,  he  rushed  to  them  and 
beat  them  vigorously  with  his  stout  walking- 
stick.  A  young  man  ran  out  from  his  hiding 
place  among  them,  and  Mr.  Robinson  was 
furious  to  note  that  he  was  the  young 
Frenchman  who  taught  Colonel  Gardiner’s 

There  was  a  terrible  scene  in  the  mansion 
that  night,  and  after  a  stormy  interview 
with  her  father,  Hannah  was,  from  that 
hour,  virtually  a  prisoner  in  her  father’s 
house.  Whether  she  walked  or  rode,  from 
that  time,  she  must  be  attended  either  by  a 
member  of  the  family  or  by  some  trusted 
servant.  This,  of  course,  was  to  prevent  her 
meeting  ever  again  Mr.  Pierre  Simond.  But 
Hannah  Robinson  was  her  father’s  own 
daughter.  She  had  a  will  of  her  own.  Also, 
“all  the  world  loves  a  lover,”  and  the  in¬ 
terested  neighbors  took  Hannah’s  side, 
and  in  many  a  way  helped  to  keep  up 
communication  between  her  and  her  lover. 

At  least,  two  people  helped  her  to  elope 
finally,  and  these  two  were  the  Colonel- 
uncle  and  a  friend,  Miss  Belden.  Hannah’s 
mother  did  all  in  her  power  to  persuade 
Hannah  to  give  up  her  lover,  but  finding  all 
her  efforts  unavailing  and  the  girl’s  health 
impaired  by  the  separation,  she  finally 
silently  acquiesced  in  Hannah’s  plans. 

At  last  all  the  plans  were  made  for  the 
elopement.  Hannah’s  aunt,  Mrs.  Ludovick 
Updike,  was  to  give  a  great  ball  at  Cocum- 

cussoc,  about  eight  miles  north  of  Hannah’s 
home.  Guests  were  coming  from  Boston, 
Providence  and  Newport,  and  of  course  it 
would  have  been  an  unheard-of  thing  if  her 
nieces  had  not  attended.  Mr.  Robinson  had 
reluctantly  given  his  consent,  and  when  the 
time  came,  Hannah  and  Mary,  attended  by 
a  faithful  servant,  “Prince,”  set  forth.  Han¬ 
nah  had  bidden  her  father  “goodnight”  a 
little  earlier,  and  perhaps  it  was  well,  for 
when  she  came  to  bid  her  mother  farewell, 
her  feelings,  suppressed  in  the  presence  of 
her  father,  overcame  her.  A  descendant 
writes  that  she  put  her  arms  around  her 
mother’s  neck  and  sobbed  as  if  her  heart 
would  break.  She  also  bade  an  affectionate 
farewell  to  Phillis,  the  cook,  and  to  Hannah, 
her  maid.  Then  she  mounted,  from  the  old 
horse-block  still  to  be  seen  at  the  rear  of  the 
house,  her  splendid  Spanish  horse,  and  the 
three  young  people  set  forth. 

At  a  spot  agreed  upon,  on  Ridge  Hill, 
Mr.  Simond  was  in  waiting,  Hannah  sprang 
from  her  horse  into  his  arms,  and  not  heed¬ 
ing  her  sister’s  tears  or  the  frantic  pleadings 
of  the  terrified  “Prince,”  the  lovers  dashed 
away  to  Providence,  where  they  were  mar¬ 
ried.  It  is  said  that  a  sister  of  Simond 
assisted  Hannah  with  the  necessary  ward¬ 
robe  for  her  wedding,  and  the  young  couple 
went  to  the  elder  Simond’s  home  until  Pierre 
secured  some  employment  in  Providence, 
at  which  time  he  took  his  wife  there  to  live. 
The  year  of  Hannah’s  marriage  does  not 
appear  to  have  been  recorded  in  any  account 
found  of  her  life,  but  it  is  said  that  she  lived 
for  many  years  in  Providence. 

It  may  be  that  Mr.  Robinson’s  opposition 
to  Hannah’s  marriage  was  based  upon  some¬ 
thing  more  than  merely  disappointed  ambi¬ 
tion  for  his  lovely  daughter.  Certain  it  is 
that  when  M.  Simond  found  that  his  wife’s 
wealthy  father  did  not  come  to  her  aid  he 
gradually  neglected  the  poor  child,  and 
finally,  it  is  said,  he  practically  abandoned 

Mr.  Robinson’s  rage  had  been,  of  course, 
unbounded.  He  offered  a  large  reward  for 
the  names  of  the  person  or  persons  who  had 
helped  her  to  elope,  but  no  one  would 
inform  him.  But,  however  implacable  he 
outwardly  appeared  to  be  toward  his  dis¬ 
obedient  child,  his  wife  noticed  that  when 
he  came  into  the  house  he  would  many  times 
pass  from  room  to  room  without  apparent 
reason.  Finally  she  observed  that  when  he 



found  the  room  where  Hannah’s  pet  cat  was, 
there  he  would  settle,  and  once,  when  he 
believed  himself  unobserved,  he  was  seen  to 
press  the  little  beast  to  his  heart,  while  tears 
ran  down  his  cheeks.  And  he  would  caress 
Hannah’s  favorite  horse  when  he  thought  no 
one  was  near. 

But  he  firmly  resisted  his  wife’s  entreaties 
that  Hannah  be  sent  for  to  return  home. 
They  had  come  to  know  that  she  was  in  a 
sad  condition  in  Providence.  Her  mother 
and  the  young  brother  William  knew  of  her 
deprivations  and  assisted  her  all  that  they 
could.  Mrs.  Robinson  sent  her  daughter 
small  delicacies,  her  wardrobe,  and  her 
little  dog,  and  for  a  time  this  was  all  that 
she  could  manage  to  do  for  her. 

Because  of  the  hardships  she  had  suffered, 
and  the  desertion  of  her  husband,  for  whom 
she  had  sacrificed  so  much,  Hannah  was 
now  heart-broken,  poor  and  ill.  The  only 
yielding  Mr.  Robinson  had  shown  had  been 
to  send  Hannah  her  maid,  the  one  called 
after  her  own  name. 

But  now  the  proud  father  sent  Hannah 
this  message.  If  she  would  tell  him  the 
names  of  those  who  had  assisted  her  to  run 
away  with  Mr.  Simond  he  would  welcome 
her  back  into  her  old  home,  and  that  she 
should  be  his  daughter  again.  But  Hannah 
Robinson  was  her  father’s  own  daughter. 
She  wrote  him  that  he  had  early  inculcated 
into  her  mind  the  importance  of  keeping 
her  word,  and  she  could  not,  in  honor,  dis¬ 
close  to  him  the  names  of  those  whom  she 
had  promised  to  keep  secret.  Mr.  Robinson 
had  opened  her  letter  eagerly,  but  when  he 
had  read  it  he  tossed  it  contemptuously  to 
her  mother,  saying:  “Then  let  the  foolish 
thing  die  where  she  is!” 

But  one  day,  at  dinner,  he  sprang  up 
from  the  table  and  rushed  out  of  the  house, 
mounted  his  horse  and  rode  to  Providence. 
At  Hannah’s  door  he  rapped  loudiy.  The 
maid,  Hannah,  opened  the  door  and  beamed 
with  gladness  to  see  her  master.  Now,  she 
doubtless  thought,  all  would  go  well.  But 
Mr.  Robinson  only  bade  her  say  to  her  mis¬ 
tress  that  her  father  wished  to  know  if  she 
was  now  ready  to  disclose  to  him  the  names 
of  those  who  had  aided  her  in  her  elope¬ 
ment.  Poor  Hannah,  torn  with  conflicting 
emotions,  sent  back  word  that  she  could  not 
do  so,  and  her  father  rode  back  the  thirty- 
five  miles  to  his  home. 

It  is  said  that,  again  and  again,  Mr.  Rob¬ 
inson  did  this — ride  to  his  daughter’s  door, 
rap  on  it  with  his  riding-whip  and  send  in 
the  same  message.  And  again  and  again  did 
Hannah  refuse  to  tell  him  what  he  so  wished 
to  know.  Finally,  when  the  poor  girl  was 
almost  at  her  life’s  end,  her  friends,  Colonel 
Gardiner  and  Miss  Belden,  that  she  might 
be  rescued  from  her  pitiful  plight,  sent 
word  to  her  to  tell  her  father  what  he  wished 
to  know.  Accordingly,  Hannah  sent  word 
to  her  father  that  she  would  give  him  the 
information  he  so  much  desired.  Mr.  Rob¬ 
inson  rode  quickly  to  Providence.  Entering 
the  room  where  Hannah  lay,  he  took  one 
look  at  the  wreck  of  his  child,  and  knelt  by 
her  bedside.  There  he  wept  aloud  with  grief 
and  remorse.  He  did  not  ask  her  for  the 
information  he  had  so  long  demanded.  He 
had  no  thought  now  of  anything  but  the 
welfare  of  his  child. 

Tenderly  kissing  Hannah,  he  put  some 
gold  pieces  into  the  hands  of  the  maid,  bid¬ 
ding  her  procure  whatever  Hannah  needed, 
and  rode  back  to  his  home.  It  was  night 
when  he  arrived,  but  he  had  four  trusted 
men  called  from  their  beds  immediately. 
He  gave  them  instructions  to  proceed  to 
Providence  in  his  pleasure  boat,  carrying 
on  it  a  litter.  At  daybreak,  he  himself,  set 
out  for  Providence  on  horse  back,  accom¬ 
panied  by  “Prince.”  “Prince”led  a  horse  for 
Hannah’s  maid.  Making  all  speed  possible, 
they  were  soon  at  Hannah’s  door.  The  sick 
girl  was  tenderly  lifted  onto  the  litter  and 
the  little  procession  started  back  to  Narra- 

On  her  journey  home,  Hannah  asked  to 
be  taken  down  to  the  spot  now  called  “Han¬ 
nah’s  Rock,”  a  little  off  the  travelled  high¬ 
way  of  MacSparran  Hill.  There  she  had 
often  gone  in  her  happy  girlhood  days  to 
gaze  upon  one  of  the  loveliest  landscapes 
that  can  be  found  in  the  whole  State  of 
Rhode  Island,  and  there  she  wished  to  re¬ 
main  for  a  little  while  before  she  passed 
on  forever.  She  asked  that  a  bit  of  the 
flower  called  “Everlasting”  be  plucked  and 
she  laid  it  on  her  breast.  And,  when  she 
was  dying,  she  told  her  mother:  “He  told 
me,  when  he  gave  it  to  me,  that  we  must 
call  it  love  everlasting,  not  life  everlasting. 
Lay  it  with  me  in  my  grave,  mother,  that  I 
may  take  it  to  the  land  where  life  is  ever¬ 
lasting  and  where  love  never  dies.” 



At  sunrise  she  called  for  her  trinkets  and 
distributed  them  with  her  own  hand. 

Then,  with  feebly  outstretched  arms,  she 
turned  to  her  mother.  Before  she  breathed 
her  last  she  cast  her  eyes  on  her  mother  with 
an  unutterable  expression  of  affection,  and 
then  fixing  them  on  her  agonized  father, 
kneeling  by  her  bedside,  holding  one  of  her 
hands  in  his,  she  continued  to  look  lovingly 
and  steadfastly  into  his,  as  if  she  would  con¬ 
vey  to  him  a  message  of  her  undying  respect 
and  love  until  they  closed  in  death. 

Her  old  nurse,  Mum  Amey,  raised  her 
eyes  from  the  face  of  her  dying  mistress  and 
with  a  look  of  devout  admiration  exclaimed : 
“The  angels  is  come !  ” 

Afterwards,  when  asked  the  cause  of  her 
young  mistress’  death,  Mum  Amey  said: 
“Nuthin’  ail  Missus  Hannah.  Dis  world  wer 
ony  jes  too  hard  for  her,  and  de  poor  chile 
die  ob  de  heart  break.” 

If  you  ever  happen  to  be  in  the  vicinity 
of  “Hannah’s  Rock,”  take  a  moment  to  look 
out  upon  the  glorious  view  which  Hannah 
Robinson  loved  so  well.  When  you  have 
gone  about  two-thirds  of  the  distance  from 
the  village  of  Hamilton  to  the  Pier,  you  will 
find  a  pathway  leading  in  an  easterly  direc¬ 
tion  direct  to  the  huge,  cube-shaped  rock 
near  which  Hannah  Robinson  gazed  last 
upon  Rhode  Island’s  rolling  countryside 
and  the  ocean’s  boundless  expanse. 


The  era  of  privateering  in  Rhode  Island 
developed  a  class  of  sea  fighters  un¬ 
usually  distinguished  in  both  daring  and 
seamanship.  The  era  began  along  in  the 
middle  of  the  17th  century  and  reached  its 
peak  about  a  hundred  years  later,  although, 
even  after  the  Colonies  had  been  successful 
in  the  Revolution  and  had  established  a 
navy,  some  privateers,  like  the  “Yankee,” 
were  commissioned  and  had  exciting  careers 
during  the  War  of  1812.  Undoubtedly  two 
basic  reasons  for  the  skill  and  boldness  of 
the  privateersmen  as  a  whole  were,  first,  the 
fact  that  they  generally  cruised  alone,  sel¬ 
dom  in  consort  with  other  ships,  and  con¬ 
sequently  had  to  rely  solely  upon  the  quali¬ 
ties  of  their  particular  ship  and  upon  their 
own  abilities  as  seamen  and  fighters,  and, 
second,  the  fact  that  every  man  of  the  crew 
shared  in  the  prize  money.  Of  the  two  rea¬ 
sons  the  latter  probably  provided  the  greater 
incentive.  However,  this  is  not  to  be  a 
discussion  of  privateersmen  as  a  body. 

Among  the  most  daring  of  all  who  en¬ 
gaged  in  this  kind  of  sanctioned  piracy  was 
Captain  John  Dennis,  of  Newport,  a  fighter 
who  well  deserved  the  title  of  “a  terrible 
man  of  war.”  His  chief  exploits  as  a  priva¬ 
teers  man  covered  a  period  of  thirteen  years, 
1743  to  1756,  and  he  was  leader  among  the 
men  of  his  “profession”  even  when  the 
“field”  had  become  fairly  crowded  and 
“specialized.”  Most  of  his  adventures  oc- 
cured  when  he  was  in  command  of  the  sloop 

“Prince  Frederick,”  the  brigantine  of  the 
same  name,  and  the  “Defiance.” 

The  99-ton  sloop,  “Prince  Frederick,” 
had  an  armament  of  14  carriage  and  21 
swivel  guns  and  had  completed  one  mildly 
successful  cruise  before  Captain  Dennis  was 
given  her  command  the  latter  part  of  1743. 
He  posted  articles  in  Newport,  announcing 
a  proposed  voyage  to  the  southward  to  seek 
Spanish  prizes,  and  had  no  trouble  in  col¬ 
lecting  a  crew  of  eighty  men.  The  arma¬ 
ment  of  the  vessel  had  been  reduced  to  12 
carriage  and  16  swivel  guns,  but  he  pro¬ 
visioned  up  for  six  months’  cruise  and  set 
out  from  Newport. 

His  first  victim  was  a  vessel  homeward 
bound  from  the  West  Indies  to  Cadiz,  but 
after  her  captain  had  been  relieved  of  some 
$14,000  (she  had  no  cargo,)  she  was  allow¬ 
ed  to  proceed  on  her  way.  In  the  following 
six  weeks  or  more  the  privateer  sighted  no 
sail,  but  was  having  trouble  of  her  own  to 
make  up  for  any  dearth  of  action.  Captain 
Dennis  had  a  short  mutiny  on  his  hands, 
but  he  suppressed  it  and  marooned  the  two 
chief  offenders  on  an  island.  On  his  trip 
homeward  he  captured  a  small  Spanish 
schooner,  which  yielded  a  cargo  of  salt, 
shoes,  leather,  and  800  pieces  of  eight. 

The  next  cruise  of  the  “Prince  Frederick” 
was  of  shorter  length  for  the  vessel  carried 
more  men.  Under  Captain  Dennis  she  sail¬ 
ed  out  of  Newport  in  June,  1744,  and  fol¬ 
lowed  the  Atlantic  Coast  southward  again. 



In  a  few  weeks  three  Spanish  vessels  were 
sighted  and  the  largest  one  captured  after 
a  long  chase.  She  had  been  an  English  ves¬ 
sel  originally  but  had  been  twice  captured 
by  the  Spaniards  who  had  converted  her  in¬ 
to  a  privateer  of  their  own.  Putting  a  prize 
crew  on  board,  Captain  Dennis  sent  her 
back  to  Newport.  Within  a  short  while  he 
also  captured  a  French  vessel  which  he 
sent  to  Newport. 

While  in  pursuit  of  a  large  Spanish  ves¬ 
sel  with  a  rich  cargo,  the  “Prince  Freder¬ 
ick”  fell  in  with  the  “Revenge”  and  the  two 
ships  proceeded  in  consort.  Near  Cape  Fran¬ 
cois  two  French  privateers,  fully  armed,  at¬ 
tempted  to  capture  their  English  rivals,  and 
both  of  them  attacked  the  “Prince  Freder¬ 
ick”  at  once.  Though  under  severe  fire, 
Captain  Dennis  managed  to  get  clear  of 
them  a  first  time,  but  they  swept  about  and 
came  at  him  again.  For  a  while  he  expected 
to  be  captured,  for  his  companion  vessel 
was  about  two  miles  away,  but  he  fought 
doggedly  until  the  French  drew  off,  weary 
of  the  conflict.  The  “Prince  Frederick”  had 
received  minor  damages  and  lost  one  man, 
but  the  French  vessels  had  suffered  more 
heavily,  and  blood  ran  out  of  their  scuppers 
for  some  time. 

After  this  engagement  the  Rhode  Island 
vessel  sailed  over  to  the  Florida  Keys  and 
captured  a  Spanish  vessel  which  had  a  valu¬ 
able  cargo  including  600  pounds  of  pure 
silver.  However,  the  crew  of  the  vessel  es¬ 
caped.  With  this  last  prize  the  “Prince 
Frederick”  and  the  “Revenge”  sailed  home 
to  Newport. 

Before  the  former  vessel  could  be  pro¬ 
visioned  for  another  cruise,  a  pistol,  acci¬ 
dently  fired  by  one  of  her  owners  as  they 
were  surveying  her  stores,  caused  a  terrific 
explosion  of  a  good  many  barrels  of  gun¬ 

Three  of  the  owners  were  killed;  nearly 
all  the  stores  were  lost  in  the  explosion;  and 
consequently  the  “Prince  Frederick”  was 
not  refitted  for  sea.  However,  the  brigan¬ 
tine  “Defiance,”  of  130  tons  and  14  guns, 
was  fitted  out  at  Newport  by  John  Tilling- 
hast,  Henry  Collins,  Solomon  Townsend, 
and  Daniel  Coggeshall,  and  her  command 
given  to  Captain  Dennis. 

In  November  1744,  he  set  sail  in  consort 
with  the  “Queen  of  Hungary.”  On  this  cruise 
he  captured  seventeen  prizes,  bringing  one 

vessel  with  a  cargo  of  $30,000  in  money, 
135  pounds  in  silver  plate,  many  tons  of 
copper,  drugs,  china  and  merchandise  with 
him  when  he  returned  to  Newport  in  May 
of  the  next  year.  On  a  second  cruise  the 
“Defiance”  carried  110  men  and  provisions 
for  nine  months.  After  many  weeks  of  sail¬ 
ing  she  captured  a  Spanish  settee  which  had 
a  cargo  of  22,500  pieces  of  eight. 

In  January  of  1746,  off  Cape  Tiburon,  the 
“Defiance”  engaged  three  French  vessels, 
and  after  an  hour  and  a  half  of  hard  fighting 
Captain  Dennis  made  up  his  mind  to  board 
the  largest.  Running  boldly  alongside,  he 
boarded  the  vessel  easily  his  daring  man¬ 
euver  scaring  off  the  other  two.  The  quarter¬ 
deck  of  the  Frenchman  blew  up  right  after 
he  had  boarded,  and  he  lost  a  number  of 
men.  Though  the  prize  had  a  fairly  valuable 
cargo,  Captain  Dennis  paid  for  it  with  15 
men  killed  and  15  more  wounded.  He  im¬ 
mediately  set  out  for  Newport  with  his  prize 
in  convoy. 

Here  in  his  native  port  again,  the  noted 
privateersman  found  himself  in  great  dif¬ 
ficulties.  He  had  captured  some  negroes 
during  one  of  his  exploits  and  sent  them  in 
to  Newport  where  they  had  been  sold.  How¬ 
ever,  the  negroes  were  not  slaves  but  free 
men,  and  when  the  news  of  their  sale  reach¬ 
ed  Havana,  the  Spaniards  seized  and  im- 
prisioned  some  of  Captain  Dennis’  crew 
whom  they  had  captured  along  with  one  of 
his  prizes.  Until  the  matter  was  investi¬ 
gated  and  cleared  up,  the  Governor  with¬ 
held  a  commission  as  a  privateersman  from 
Captain  Dennis.  And,  due  to  the  delay  in 
the  proceedings,  the  “Defiance”  sailed  away 
under  another  master  before  the  action 
against  Captain  Dennis  was  withdrawn. 

But  the  Captain  soon  received  another 
command.  This  was  the  brigantine,  “Prince 
Frederick,”  a  different  vessel  entirely  from 
the  sloop  of  which  he  had  formerly  been 
master.  The  brigantine  was  of  170  tons  with 
an  armament  of  18  carriage  guns,  30  swivels 
and  18  blunderbusses.  She  had  just  return¬ 
ed  from  a  long  cruise  under  Captain  Peter 
Marshall.  With  a  fresh  crew  of  100  men, 
Captain  Dennis  sailed  the  “Prince  Freder¬ 
ick”  to  the  West  Indies,  his  favorite  haunt. 
Here  he  attacked  a  French  privateer  with 
its  prize  and  succeeded  in  capturing  the  lat¬ 
ter,  although  he  lost  two  men  and  was 
wounded  himself  in  the  engagement.  The 



next  prize  was  another  French  vessel  which 
was  sent  to  Newport  to  be  condemned.  After 
this  the  captain  seemed  to  get  interested  in 
French  vessels  and  captured  six  privateers 
in  a  row,  taking  them  into  St.  Kitts.  The 
next  victim  was  a  French  sloop  which  was 
sent  with  a  prize  crew  to  Newport. 

Late  in  the  year  of  1746  the  government 
of  Martinque  fitted  out  a  special  privateer 
to  attack  and  capture  the  “Prince  Frederick” 
which  had  been  causing  so  much  trouble. 
The  vessels  soon  met  and  had  a  very  sharp 
engagement,  but  the  Rhode  Island  vessel 
was  the  victor.  Captain  Dennis  was  again 
slightly  wounded.  The  French  vessel  was 
taken  into  St.  Kitts,  where  the  “General  and 
other  Gentlemen  of  the  Island”  in  acknow¬ 
ledgment  of  Captain  Dennis’  services  “pre¬ 
sented  him  with  a  Golden  Oar  and  a  purse 
of  500  pistoles.” 

During  the  winter  of  1746-47  Captain 
Dennis  had  the  audacity  to  send  a  message 
to  the  governor  of  Martinque,  asking  him 
to  send  out  two  of  his  best  privateers  and 

adding  that  he,  Captain  Dennis,  “would 
shoW|  him  some  Sport.”  The  governor  com¬ 
plied  with  the  challenge  and  sent  out  two 
vessels.  They  did  not  find  Captain  Dennis, 
however,  but  instead  chased  a  vessel  they 
believed  to  be  a  rich  English  merchantman. 
It  turned  out  to  be  the  privateer  “Lowe¬ 
stoft,”  of  Bristol,  proceeding  with  her  guns 
run  in  and  her  ports  closed  to  deceive  the 
enemy.  She  let  the  Frenchmen  overtake  her, 
and  then  suddenly  bristled  into  action  and 
captured  them  both. 

The  last  prize  of  Captain  Dennis  on  this 
cruise  was  a  vessel  from  the  French  sugar 
fleet  which  he  took  with  him  back  to  New¬ 
port.  The  next  cruise  of  Captain  Dennis  was 
in  a  new  sloop,  named  the  “Jonathan” 
which  he  sailed  in  1748.  The  following  eight 
years  were  but  a  continuation  of  successful 
cruises  for  this  stalwart  Rhode  Islander, 
but,  in  1756,  he  sailed  in  command  of  the 
“Foy”  a  new  large  vessel  especially  fitted 
out  for  him,  and  from  that  voyage  never 


During  the  “Golden  Age  of  Newport,” 
that  brilliant  period  in  the  cultural 
history  of  Rhode  Island,  there  were  many 
who  helped  the  little  seaport  and  social  re¬ 
sort  to  gain  real  prestige  in  the  fields  of 
literature,  philosophy,  and  art.  The  years 
of  commercial  success  had  brought  to  New¬ 
port  that  degree  of  wealth  which,  through 
its  creation  of  a  leisure  class,  often  proves  to 
be  a  fertile  ground  for  the  seeds  of  intel¬ 
lectual  and  artistic  advancement.  In  1729, 
Newport  was  wealthy  and  was  adding 
yearly  to  her  material  riches.  Thus,  when 
George  Berkeley,  Dean  of  Derry,  brought 
his  idealistic  philosophy  to  Newport  in  that 
year,  he  found  the  town  ready  to  respond 
wholeheartedly  to  any  cultural  stimuli.  Al¬ 
though  the  Dean  remained  in  Rhode  Island 
only  three  years,  his  influence  extended  far 
into  the  century.  This  was  the  beginning  of 
the  “Golden  Age.”  Worthy  successors  to 
Berkeley  held  to  the  intellectual  and  artis¬ 
tic  standards  he  started  until  the  Revolution. 
There  were  leaders  in  all  fields. 

As  patrons  of  art  and  architecture  there 
were  Henry  Collins  and  Abraham  Red¬ 

wood;  as  painters,  there  were  John  Smibert 
(who  came  with  Berkeley),  Robert  Feke, 
Samuel  King,  Cosmo  Alexander,  and  Gil¬ 
bert  Stuart;  as  men  of  letters  and  theology, 
there  were  James  Honyman,  Isaac  Touro, 
Samuel  Hopkins,  Ezra  Stiles,  John  Comer, 
John  Callender,  and  Nathaniel  Clap;  as 
men  of  science,  there  were  Dr.  Thomas  Mof- 
fatt,  Dr.  Thomas  Brett  (a  graduate  of  Ley¬ 
den)  ,  and  Dr.  William  Hunter;  and  finally, 
as  architects,  there  were  Richard  Munday 
and  Peter  Harrison.  It  is  of  the  last  two, 
the  architects,  of  which  this  brief  survey  is 

Richard  Munday  was  a  predecessor  of 
Peter  Harrison  and  a  worthy  one  in  every 
respect.  Before  Peter  Harrison  had  even 
thought  of  coming  to  America,  Munday  had 
designed  beautiful  Trinity  Church,  and  had 
just  finished  with  the  Colony  or  State  House 
when  Harrison  arrived.  Both  of  these  struc¬ 
tures  reflect  the  touch  of  a  master  in  their 
perfect  proportions.  Trinity  Church  was 
hailed  as  the  finest  example  of  ecclesiastical 
architecture  in  Rhode  Island  until  1775,  the 
year  in  which  the  First  Baptist  Church  in 



Providence  was  erected.  The  Colony  House 
was  by  far  the  finest  building  of  its  kind  in 
all  the  Colonies.  These,  then,  were  the  ex¬ 
ceptional  public  buildings  which  Peter 
Harrison  found  already  standing  in  New¬ 
port.  He  was  to  add  three  more  of  equally 
fine  lines  and  proportions,  of  which  one 
was  to  be  called  by  many  the  best  single 
example  of  colonial  art  in  the  country. 

There  is  practically  no  information  about 
the  early  life  of  Peter  Harrison.  He  was 
born  in  1716,  the  son  of  one  Thomas  Har¬ 
rison  of  Grimston,  Yorkshire.  However, 
the  name,  Harrison,  was  as  common  in 
Yorkshire  as  Smith  now  is  in  America,  and 
in  the  county  there  were  no  less  than  five 
towns  named  Grimston.  We  do  know,  how¬ 
ever,  that  his  mother  was  Elizabeth  Denni¬ 
son,  a  descendant  of  the  great  house  of  Rox- 
burghe,  and  the  old  Connecticut  Journal 
commended  his  lineage  by  stating  that  “in 
point  of  family  [he  was]  second  perhaps  to 
very  few  in  America.”  Peter,  himself,  later 
married  Elizabeth,  daughter  of  Edward 
Pelham,  Jr.,  of  Newport,  then  the  owner  of 
the  Old  Stone  Mill  and  “of  the  same  family 
as  the  late  Duke  of  Newcastle.” 

Tradition  has  it  that  Peter  Harrison  re¬ 
ceived  a  portion  of  his  architectural  train¬ 
ing  by  working  under  Sir  John  Vanbrugh 
on  the  plans  for  Blenheim  House,  but,  as  a 
matter  of  fact,  it  was  more  probably  his 
brother  (who  was  also  an  architect).  Why 
Peter  Harrison  decided  to  leave  the  Old 
World  and  come  to  America  is  a  mystery, 
but,  in  1740,  he  appeared  in  Rhode  Island 
as  “a  passenger  with  Captain  Patterson.” 
With  him  came  his  brother,  Joseph.  It  is 
probable  that  these  two  came  to  the  Colony 
as  surveyors  or  draughtsmen,  hoping  to  find 
plenty  of  work  in  settling  boundary  dis¬ 
putes.  Peter  gained  his  first  recognition  in 
that  capacity  by  drawing  up  a  plan  of  Cape 
Breton  which  facilitated  its  capture  in  1745. 
Later,  aided  by  his  brother,  Joseph,  he 
made  “a  handsome  draught  of  Fort  George 
and  the  harbor  of  Newport.”  With  this 
piece  of  work  the  General  Assembly  was  so 
pleased,  that  its  members  voted  to  present 
him  with  a  piece  of  plate,  valued  at  £75. 
In  1750,  Peter  made  new  plans  of  the  fort 
and  harbor  by  himself,  and  it  is  these  draw¬ 
ings,  preserved  in  London,  that  are  the  only 
known  examples  of  his  craftsmanship  in 
existence.  In  all  this  early  work,  as  in  his 

architectural  plans,  he  showed  an  Old 
World  finish  that  was  unique  in  colonial 

Both  the  brothers,  after  drifting  about 
for  a  number  of  years,  settled  in  Newport. 
Despite  the  era  of  wealth  and  culture,  there 
was  little  opportunity  for  them  to  earn  a 
living  by  their  talents,  and  they  were  forced 
to  become  merchants.  Their  advertisement 
offered  “a  variety  of  European  goods,  just 
imported  and  to  be  Sold  at  their  Store  near 
the  wharf  of  Captain  John  Brown.”  This 
stock  certainly  was  varied,  for  it  ranged 
from  “black  Sagathee”  to  “oynions.” 

Peter  Harrison  came  into  a  lot  of  valua¬ 
ble  Newport  property  through  his  marriage, 
and  an  especially  fine  section,  located  on 
the  Neck,  was  long  known  as  Harrison 
Farm.  Here  the  potential  architect  turned 
farmer,  becoming  an  expert  in  agriculture 
and  selling  as  much  as  £175  worth  of  prod¬ 
uce  a  year.  Harrison  Avenue  takes  its  name 
from  this  farm. 

Occasionally  Peter  Harrison  made  trad¬ 
ing  voyages  and  always  kept  well  informed 
on  maritime  matters.  He  received  the  am¬ 
biguous  title  of  “Captain”  and  enjoyed 
somewhat  of  a  reputation  as  an  authority 
on  ship-building.  He  records,  in  one  of  his 
diaries,  that  he  even  “sought  out  Leviathan” 
in  his  “whale  Sloope,  Jenkins,  master.” 
When  difficulties  arose  in  connection  with 
the  operation  of  the  first  lighthouse  at  the 
mouth  of  Newport  Harbor,  it  was  Peter 
Harrison  who  corrected  its  faults  and  put 
it  in  good  running  order. 

Joseph  Harrison  returned  to  England  in 
1755  in  hopes  of  bettering  his  condition, 
but  he  came  back  to  New  England  twice 
more,  once,  in  1760,  as  Collector  of  Cus¬ 
toms  at  New  Haven  and  again,  in  1764,  as 
Collector  at  Boston.  When  he  left  New 
Haven  he  prevailed  upon  the  authorities  to 
give  his  position  to  his  brother,  Peter,  and, 
in  1766,  the  latter  became  the  Collector  of 
Customs  for  New  Haven. 

The  acceptance  of  a  royal  post  was  a 
fatal  move  for  Peter  Harrison  to  make,  and 
it  led  him  indirectly  to  his  death.  With  the 
advent  of  the  Revolution,  the  full  hatred  of 
the  people  turned  upon  all  Crown  officers, 
and  Peter  Harrison  was  no  exception.  It  is 
true  that  he  was  a  staunch  loyalist,  reputed 
even  by  his  friends  as  being  “preeminent 
for  his  loyalty  to  the  King.”  His  position 



in  New  Haven  became  so  precarious  that  he 
was  obliged  to  leave  the  town  for  a  time 
until  the  fierce  agitation  had  passed.  In  his 
absence  his  house  was  wantonly  looted  by 
an  unprincipled  mob  and  his  beautiful  li¬ 
brary  and  all  of  his  professional  papers 
were  destroyed.  Such  barbarous  treatment 
probably  had  much  to  do  with  hastening  his 
death,  for  he  died  only  a  few  days  after  the 
Battle  of  Lexington. 

Peter  Harrison’s  architectural  work  will 
be  remembered  forever,  but  during  his  life 
it  was  only  an  avocation.  His  artistic  activi¬ 
ties  fall  into  two  periods  with  a  gap  of  ten 
years  between  them.  He  collaborated  with 
his  elder  brother  in  the  designing  of  Red¬ 
wood  Library  in  1748,  but  in  reality  it  was 
a  case  where  the  brother  started  the  job, 
made  a  mess  of  it,  and  left  it  for  Peter  to 
finish  as  best  he  could.  The  result  was  not 
as  good  as  it  might  have  been  had  the  latter 
done  the  work  alone.  In  1749,  he  completed 
his  best  piece  of  work,  King’s  Chapel  in 
Boston,  and  then  went  for  a  decade  before 
designing  a  new  building  for  Newport,  the 
Jewish  Synagogue.  In  the  interior  of  this 
building,  Harrison’s  genius  was  displayed 
to  the  full.  Later  in  the  year  he  finished 

work  on  Christ  Church  in  Cambridge, 
Mass.,  which  was  more  or  less  of  a  replica 
of  King’s  Chapel  in  wood.  Herein,  however, 
in  the  organ  loft  itself  is  without  doubt 
Harrison’s  finest  single  specimen  of  Georg¬ 
ian  architecture.  In  1761,  he  drew  the  first 
sketches  for  the  Brick  Market  House  in 
Newport.  He  modelled  the  exterior  after 
the  English  market  houses  of  the  day.  As  a 
classic  in  brick,  it  is  probably  unrivalled  in 
the  entire  country,  and  the  exterior  shows 
Harrison  at  his  best.  Just  prior  to  his  death 
he  was  consulted  concerning  the  construc¬ 
tion  of  a  first  hall  for  Dartmouth  College, 
but  he  died  before  he  had  had  a  chance  to 
develop  any  plans. 

All  of  Peter  Harrison’s  architecture  re¬ 
mains  as  a  monument  to  him  today,  al¬ 
though  much  of  it  has  been  sadly  misused. 
In  many  cases,  however,  buildings  are  now 
being  restored  to  their  original  condition, 
and  will  be  kept  as  historical  shrines  for 
the  future.  Even  in  this  day  he  is  recognized 
as  a  “masterly  architect,”  and  he  has  had  a 
profound  influence  on  architectural  art  in 
America.  A  Rhode  Islander  by  adoption, 
he  has  left  treasures  of  Colonial  architecture 
which  have  never  been  surpassed. 


Rowland  robinson,  the  Sheriff  of  King’s 
County,  was  the  eldest  son  of  Deputy- 
Governor  William  Robinson,  who  lived  so 
busily  and  happily  with  his  wife,  children 
and  slaves  in  his  large  house  near  the  head 
of  Pettaquamscutt  Cove.  His  household,  it 
is  said,  consisted  of  just  forty-one  persons. 

Rowland,  in  1741,  married  Anstis, 
daughter  of  a  wealthy  Boston  Neck  farmer, 
Dr.  James  MacSparran  performing  the  cer¬ 
emony;  and,  in  1746,  built  the  beautiful 
and  stately  mansion  which  still  stands  near 
Boston  Neck  Road  about  a  mile  north  of  the 
old  South  Ferry. 

This  year  of  1746  was  also  the  year  of  his 
first  child’s  birth — she  whose  romantic  and 
tragic  story  has  been  many  times  told.  “Un¬ 
fortunate  Hannah  Robinson”  is  the  name 
by  which  this  beautiful  girl  has  gone  down 
in  history. 

But  in  the  year  1746  there  was  no  cloud 
over  that  happy  home  and,  beautiful  as  is 
the  old  “Narragansett  Country”  now,  one 
must  simply  “believe  in  fairies”  to  see  it 
with  the  “mind’s  eye”  as  it  was  at  that 

“The  aristocratic  class  were  large  land- 
owners.  They  raised  great  quantities  of  hay 
and  grain;  they  had  large  dairies,  herds  of 
cattle,  flocks  of  sheep.  They  kept  Christ¬ 
mas  as  it  was  kept  in  Old  England,  they  at¬ 
tended  the  Church  of  England  services. 
They  danced,  ate  lamb,  venison,  turkeys, 
ducks.  Their  fruit  and  vegetables  were  not 
to  be  excelled.” 

There  were  no  carriages  then  in  Narra¬ 
gansett,  but  the  wealthy  planters  rode  to 
Church  on  their  beautiful  “pacers,”  attend¬ 
ed  by  slaves  who  kept  at  their  side  to  open 



and  close  the  many  gates  that  divided  the 
driveways  along  which  they  traveled. 

In  Thomas  R.  Hazard’s  “Recollections  of 
Olden  Times”  we  get  a  description  of  Row¬ 
land  Robinson,  gentleman  farmer,  and 
Sheriff  of  King’s  County.  He  says  that  in 
person  he  was  portly,  tall  and  erect.  He  had 
classical  features,  a  clear,  light  complexion, 
and  waving  brown  hair  which  he  wore  in  a 
queue.  In  full  dress  he  usually  wore  a  dark 
velvet  or  brown  broad-cloth  coat,  light  yel¬ 
low  plush  waist-coat  with  deep  pockets  and 
wide  flaps,  short  violet  colored  velvet 
breeches  buckled  at  the  knee;  nicely  pol¬ 
ished  white-top  boots  or  silver-buckled 
shoes,  fine  cambric  shirt,  profusely  ruffled 
and  plated  at  the  bosom  and  wrists,  with  a 
white  silk  necktie,  the  whole  surmounted  by 
a  looped-up,  triangular  hat  over  his  pow¬ 
dered  hair.  In  his  hand  he  carried  a  gold¬ 
headed  cane. 

Later  on,  in  Revolutionary  times,  it  was 
said  that  his  appearance  in  Newport,  when 
he  came  to  visit  a  brother  there,  was  such 
that  many  of  Count  Rochambeau’s  officers 
vied  with  each  other  to  obtain  introductions 
to  him  and  to  procure  invitations  to  his 
Narragansett  home. 

But,  at  the  time  in  which  this  story  opens, 
Rowland  Robinson  was  following  the  usual 
life  of  his  privileged  class,  and  in  addition 
to  his  other  activities  was  making  famous 
cheeses  which  he  shipped  to  the  West  Indies. 

In  this  connection,  there  was  one  very 
curious  feature  about  his  possessions.  Alice 
Morse  Earle  has  written  that  it  was  his  am¬ 
bition  to  possess  one  hundred  of  the  beauti¬ 
ful  “blanket  cows”  that  formed  his  herd, 
but  that  he  could  never  achieve  this  number. 
He  might  have  ninety-nine  of  the  black-and- 
white  creatures,  but  just  so  surely  as  the 
hundredth  one  was  born  he  would  lose  one 
or  more  in  some  way.  It  would  sicken  and 
die,  or  meet  death  by  accident.  He  never 
did,  tradition  says,  keep  an  even  hundred  of 
these  animals  for  any  appreciable  time. 

In  those  old  King’s  County  days  much 
dependence  was  placed  upon  slave  labor. 
Between  his  house  and  his  lands,  his  herds 
and  his  cheese-making,  Rowland  Robinson 
needed  many  helpers,  and  following  the 
usual  custom  he  sent  over  to  Africa  for  a 
shipload  of  these  poor  creatures.  At  least 
as  many  as  twenty-eight  men  and  women 
were  secured  for  him,  and  when  he  re¬ 

ceived  word  that  the  ship  was  in,  he  rode 
his  horse  down  to  the  South  Ferry  to  see  the 
slaves  disembark.  His  idea  was  to  keep  the 
likeliest  ones  for  his  house  and  his  fields, 
and  to  sell  the  others. 

But  when  he  arrived  at  the  Ferry  and  sat 
on  his  fine  horse  watching  the  poor,  sick, 
weary,  and  frightened  black  creatures  com¬ 
ing  down  over  the  side  of  the  vessel,  he  took 
no  pleasure  in  the  sight.  Some  of  them  were 
so  weak  they  could  hardly  walk.  And  as  he 
watched,  tears  of  compassion  came  into 
Rowland  Robinson’s  eyes.  Some  have  said 
he  never  sold  a  soul  of  them.  Twenty-eight 
servants  he  kept,  treated  kindly,  and  found 
work  for  all  on  his  estate.  Only  once  again 
did  he  ever  send  to  Africa  for  labor,  and 
that  was  at  the  plea  of  Abigail,  a  prized 
house-servant.  Abigail  had  been  a  Queen  in 
Africa,  and,  once  reconciled  to  her  new 
home  in  this  country,  she  begged  her  master 
to  allow  her  to  go  back  to  her  native  land, 
find  her  son,  an  African  Prince,  and  bring 
him  back  with  her  to  this  land  of  plenty. 
So  Mr.  Robinson  permitted  her  to  go  and 
provided  for  her  comfort  on  the  journey. 
And  back  Queen  Abigail  came,  bearing  with 
her  the  young  man,  who  became  Mr.  Robin¬ 
son’s,  especial  body-servant,  and  he  was 
always  called  “Prince.” 

Updike,  the  historian,  has  written  down 
the  character  of  Rowland  Robinson  as  be¬ 
ing  relentless,  unforgiving,  harsh,  but  a 
Robinson  descendant  says  that  this  is  not 
right.  Impetuous  and  over-bearing  he  may 
have  been,  but  nevertheless  he  had  a  fine, 
generous  and  forgiving  spirit. 

Instance  after  instance  arises  in  a  perusal 
of  his  life  to  show  that  his  first  indignations 
were  time  after  time  succeeded  by  a  merci¬ 
ful  softening.  Thomas  R.  Hazard  speaks  of 
such  instances. 

Steppany,  one  of  the  slaves  that  came 
from  Guinea,  was  a  confirmed  thief,  and  his 
master  often  lost  patience  with  him.  He  had 
furnished  him  with  a  little  house  to  live  in, 
and  one  day  word  came  from  this  humble 
home  that  Steppany  was  very  ill.  His  son 
brought  the  message,  and  when  he  had  de¬ 
livered  it,  Mr.  Robinson’s  stored-up  rage 
vented  itself.  He  burst  out:  “Boy,  what 
makes  your  father  such  a  thief?”  The  boy, 
frightened,  ran  away  home,  while  Mr.  Rob¬ 
inson,  relenting,  sent  Prince  over  with  a 



horse  laden  with  necessaries  for  the  old 
man’s  use. 

Another  slave,  also  a  thief,  was  Jerry.  Mr. 
Robinson  had  winked  at  many  a  theft,  petty 
or  otherwise,  but  when  Jerry  stole  a  val¬ 
uable,  imported  ram  he  lost  patience.  When 
the  loss  of  the  animal  was  reported  to  him, 
he  turned  his  horses’s  head  toward  Jerry’s 
cabin  in  a  good  towering  rage.  Jerry  saw 
him  coming  and  got  under  the  bed.  When 
Mr.  Robinson  got  to  the  cabin  he  could 
smell  the  ram  cooking,  and  he  rapped  with 
his  famous  cane  on  the  door.  Nobody  an¬ 
swered  the  knock,  but  he  kept  on  pounding 
the  door  until  Jerry’s  wife  appeared.  Her 
husband,  she  said,  had  gone  fishing  to  get 
food  for  his  poor  children.  But  Mr.  Robin¬ 
son  knew  better,  for  he  had  caught  a 
glimpse  of  the  culprit  sawing  wood  as  he 
approached  the  house,  and  knew  he  was 
hiding  within.  So  he  continued  to  demand 
Jerry  in  a  thundering  voice  until  finally  the 
trembling  black  appeared  at  the  door. 
“Come  here,  you  rascally  thief,  while  I 
break  every  bone  in  your  body  for  stealing 
my  English  ram.”  Jerry  averred  that,  be¬ 
cause  of  the  darkness,  he  did  not  know  it  was 
the  ram  he  had  taken.  He  thought  it  was  a 
“big  wether  sheep”  until  he  came  to  dress  it. 
He  pleaded  for  mercy,  his  wife  wept,  and 
half  a  dozen  whimpering  children  cried  and 
claimed  that  they  were  half-starved.  In  the 
end  the  weeping  children  secured  mercy  for 
their  father,  and  Mr.  Robinson  still  uttering 
direful  threats  but  with  a  tear  in  his  eye 
turned  toward  home  and  left  the  family, 
presumably,  to  enjoy  their  fine  dinner  of 
stolen  ram. 

This  same  Jerry  once  had  his  leg  broken 
by  the  famous  cane,  but  this  was  by  acci¬ 
dent,  for  Mr.  Robinson  had  aimed  at  a  re¬ 
fractory  steer  and  hit  the  man’s  leg  instead. 
He  was  instantly  full  of  concern,  had  the 

negro  tenderly  carried  to  his  home,  and 
sent  for  old  Job  Sweet  to  come  and  set  the 
bone.  This  done,  scarce  a  day  went  by  with¬ 
out  the  master  coming  to  inquire  for  the 
disabled  man,  while  his  family’s  needs  were 
abundantly  supplied  from  the  house  and 
farm.  Jerry  afterward  was  wont  to  say  that 
he  only  wished  Mr.  Robinson  would  break 
his  other  leg,  that  his  family  might  live  as 
well  as  it  did  while  he  was  laid  up. 

Still  another  incident  refuting  the  belief 
that  Rowland  Robinson  was  a  stern,  hard 
man  is  in  connection  with  that  murder 
which  in  1751  shook  the  country-side.  That 
was  the  Carter- Jackson  murder,  which  is, 
as  Kipling  would  say,  “another  story”  and 
which  is  told  in  another  part  of  this  book. 

On  the  first  of  January,  1751,  while 
Sheriff  Robinson  was  in  office,  there  was 
committed  on  Tower  Hill,  Rhode  Island,  a 
crime  so  dastardly  and  so  cruel  that  for 
generations  afterward  children  shuddered 
by  their  warm  chimneysides  to  hear  their 
elders  repeat  the  story. 

Filled  with  horror  at  the  crime,  and 
resolute  that  justice  should  be  done,  the 
Sheriff  of  King’s  County  arrested  Carter, 
the  murderer,  in  Newport,  and  “without 
aid,”  Hazard  says,  “brought  the  criminal 
who  was  a  remarkably  powerful  and  des¬ 
perately  resolute  man”  over  two  ferries  and 
along  the  roads  to  Tower  Hill  for  trial. 

As  they  proceeded  for  some  distance,  the 
Sheriff  riding  a  fine  black  horse  and  the 
prisoner  on  foot,  the  Sheriff  noted  that  Car¬ 
ter  walked  with  fatigue.  And  so  this  cold, 
hard,  domineering  man  got  down  from  his 
saddle,  loosened  the  man’s  bonds,  and  made 
him  mount  the  horse  which  he  also  rode. 

Thus,  Rowland  Robinson,  Sheriff  of 
King’s  County,  rode  to  Tower  Hill  with  the 
murderer  sitting  behind  him  on  the  great 
black  horse,  and  delivered  his  prisoner  to 
the  jail. 




The  Indictment: — 

“ The  Grand  Jury  for  the  County  at 
Tower  Hill  do  upon  their  Oaths  in  behalf  of 
our  said  Sovereign  Lord  the  King  present  that 
Thomas  Carter,  late  of  Newport  in  the  County 
of  Newport ,  mariner,  not  having  the  Fear  of 
God  before  his  Eyes,  but  being  moved  and 
seduced  by  the  Instigation  of  the  Devil  upon 
the  first  day  of  January  in  the  twenty-fourth 
year  of  His  said  Majesty’s  reign,  Annoque 
Dominat  1750  (about  nine  o’clock  in  the  after¬ 
noon  of  said  day),  in  South  Kingstown  in  the 
county  of  King’s  County,  with  Force  and  Arms 
upon  the  Body  of  One  William  Jackson,  late 
an  Inhabitant  of  His  said  Majesty’s  Dominion 
of  Virginia,  trader,  being  then  and  there  in  the 
Peace  of  God  and  our  said  Lord  the  King,  an 
assault  did  make.  And  the  said  Thomas  Car¬ 
ter  with  one  Dagger  to  the  Value  of  five  shill¬ 
ings  which  said  Thomas  Carter  then  had  and 
held  drawn  in  his  Hand,  Feloniously,  Volun¬ 
tarily  and  of  Malice  aforethought  smote  and 
wounded  the  said  William  Jackson;  at  said 
South  Kingstown  in  said  County  feloniously 
and  of  malice  aforethought  at  the  Time  afore¬ 
said  giving  said  William  Jackson  Two  Mortal 
Wounds  upon  the  left  Breast  of  about  Two 
Inches  in  Breadth  and  about  Five  Inches  in 
Depth  and  One  Mortal  Wound  in  his  Neck  of 
about  Two  Inches  in  Width  and  about  Three 
Inches  in  Depth.  Of  which  Mortal  Wounds 
the  said  William  Jackson  at  said  South 
County  Kingstown  at  the  time  aforesaid  in¬ 
stantly  Died. 

And  so  the  said  Jurors  upon  their  Oaths 
aforesaid  say  that  the  aforesaid  Thomas  Car¬ 
ter  upon  the  aforesaid  First  Day  of  January  in 
the  year  aforesaid  at  said  South  Kingstown  in 
the  County  aforesaid,  the  said  William  Jack- 
son  in  the  Manner  and  Forme  aforesaid  of 
Malice  Feloniously  and  Voluntarily  killed  and 
Murdered  against  the  Peace  of  our  said  Lord, 
his  Crown  and  Dignity. 

(Signed)  D.  Updike,  Attorney  for  the  King.” 

KING  George  the  Second  sat  upon  the 
throne  of  England  when  these  words 
were  penned  and  the  ink  with  which  they  were 
written  has  been  dry  nearly  two  centuries. 
The  ancient,  yellow  papers  searched  bear 
conflicting  dates,  but  it  seems  reasonably 
certain  that  it  was  on  December  31,  1750, 
that  the  two  men  met  and  that  it  was  on  New 
Year’s  Day,  1751,  that  one  Widow  Nash  en¬ 
tertained  two  travelers  on  their  way  to  New¬ 
port.  It  is  probable  that  she  fed  and  shel¬ 
tered  the  two  men  in  her  home  on  that  day, 

and  from  her  testimony  given  later  it  ap¬ 
pears  that  she  also  performed  the  homely 
services  of  mending  a  garment  and  dressing 
the  hair  of  the  man  who  hailed  from  “The 
Old  Dominion  of  Virginia,”  Jackson  by 

The  other  traveler  was  Captain  Thomas 
Carter,  who  had  been  owner  and  master  of 
a  small  vessel  that  ran  between  Newport  and 
New  York.  But  Carter  was  in  sorry  plight 
that  day,  for  he  had  been  shipwrecked  with 
loss  of  both  his  vessel  and  cargo  off  the 
coast  of  Long  Island,  and  was  making  his 
way  back  home  to  Newport  on  foot  when  he 
had  fallen  in  with  Mr.  Jackson.  Jackson 
was  coming  North  with  a  horse-load  of  deer¬ 
skins,  and  he  seems  to  have  formed  a 
liking  for  the  unfortunate  mariner  and 
shared  his  horse  with  him  and  generously 
paid  their  mutual  daily  expenses  upon  the 
road,  Captain  Carter  being  penniless. 

Alternately  riding  and  walking,  the  two 
men  traveled  the  weary  miles.  Occasionally 
they  stopped  for  food  and  rest  at  some  con¬ 
venient  farm-house  or  tavern,  and  it  was  be¬ 
cause  Carter  claimed  to  be  sick  that  they 
stopped  at  the  house  of  the  Widow  Nash  for 
rest  and  refreshment  before  continuing  on. 

At  what  point  in  their  journey  the  mar¬ 
iner  discovered  that  the  benefactor  pos¬ 
sessed,  beside  his  peltries  and  valuable 
horse,  a  bag  of  silver  is  not  known.  But 
they  evidently  found  good  cheer  in  the  wid¬ 
ow’s  house,  for  she  not  only  fed  them,  but 
after  she  sewed  the  button  on  Jackson’s  coat 
or  vest,  she  dressed  his  hair.  While  doing 
so,  her  attention  was  attracted  to  a  peculiar 
lock  of  hair.  One  narrative  says  it  was  a 
close,  round  lock  of  black  hair,  quite  differ¬ 
ent  in  appearance  from  his  other  locks;  an¬ 
other  says  it  was  snowy  white  contrasting 
strongly  with  the  color  of  the  rest  of  his 
hair.  At  any  rate,  the  widow  noticed  this 
peculiarity,  and  as  the  two  men  prepared  to 
leave  her  house  she  remarked  to  Mr.  Jack- 
son,  jestingly:  “If  any  one  should  murder 
you,  I  can  identify  your  body  by  that  queer 
lock  of  hair.”  The  two  travelers  set  forth, 
avowing  that  they  would  reach  Franklin 
Ferry  that  night  and  cross  over  to  Newport 



in  the  morning.  It  was  near  sunset  on  that 
ill-fated  day  when  they  left  the  house  and 
perhaps  the  widow  tucked  away  the  price 
of  their  entertainment  in  the  tea-pot  that  set 
high  on  her  shelf  and  forgot  about  them  — 
until  circumstances  recalled  their  visit  very 
vividly  to  her  mind. 

Let  the  pedestrian  or  the  motorist  note, 
on  the  Tower  Hill  Road  when  next  he  pass¬ 
es  over  it,  about  a  mile  and  a  half  out  of 
Wakefield,  a  little  cemetery  overlooking  the 
river.  Near  the  roadside  he  will  see  a  monu¬ 
ment  erected  by  the  late  Mr.  Thomas  Peace 
Hazard.  This  is  called  the  “Carter- Jackson” 
monument,  and  on  its  four  sides  is  inscribed 
the  story  of  the  deed  that  happened  there 
“about  the  hour  of  midnight”  on  that  long 
past  New  Year’s  night. 

For  at  just  this  point,  on  that  fateful 
night,  Thomas  Carter  came  up  close  behind 
his  good  friend  sitting  on  his  horse,  and 
smote  him  fearfully  with  a  large  stone  on 
the  back  of  his  head.  Jackson  recovered  a 
little  and  fled  for  his  life  to  an  old,  deserted 
house  nearby,  the  chimney  of  which  was 
still  standing  in  1850.  They  called  the  spot 
“Chimney  Hill”  for  a  long  time  after  this 
crime.  But  Carter  pursued  the  poor  fellow 
and  finished  him  with  the  weapon  so  quaint¬ 
ly  described  in  the  “ Indictment  ”  —  the 
“Dagger  to  the  Value  of  Five  Shillings,” 
then  dragged  his  body  nearly  a  mile  down 
the  hill  where  he  concealed  it  under  the  ice 
of  the  waters  of  Pettaquamscutt  Cove. 

Considering,  perhaps,  that  he  had  done  a 
satisfactory  night’s  work,  he  then  passed 
along  toward  Newport  with  Jackson’s  horse, 
the  deer-skins  and  the  “bagg  of  silver.” 

Mr.  Hazard  writes  that  it  was  “a  few 
days”  afterward,  and  another  writer  affirms 
that  it  was  “seven  weeks”  later,  that  a  man, 
spearing  eels  in  the  Narrow  River,  found 
the  body  of  the  murdered  man,  and  the  body 
was  brought  to  the  shore.  No  one  knew  who 
the  stranger  was  —  save  one !  That  day  it 
so  happened  that  the  Widow  Nash  was  in 
the  village  on  an  errand  of  some  sort  and 
was  among  those  who  gathered  around  the 
body  just  drawn  from  the  water.  Suddenly 
her  eyes  grew  larger,  and  she  bent  over  the 
form  on  the  ground.  The  corpse  had  a  very 
peculiar  lock  of  hair,  one  she  had  seen  be¬ 
fore  and  remarked  upon.  Her  trembling 
fingers  searched  along  the  front  of  his  vest 
or  coat,  and,  sure  enough,  —  there  was  the 

button  that  she  had  sewed  on  for  the  kind 
stranger  who  had  picked  up  Captain  Carter 
during  his  long  journey  from  the  wreck  of 
his  vessel  in  Long  Island  waters. 

She  recalled  the  jesting  words  she  had 
flung  after  the  departing  travelers.  —  “If 
ever  you’re  murdered,”  she  had  laughed  to 
Jackson,  “I  can  identify  your  body  by  that 
lock  of  hair.” 

The  widow’s  testimony  sent  the  Sheriff  of 
King’s  County  riding  down  to  Newport 
mounted  on  a  powerful  black  horse,  in 
search  of  the  murderer.  The  criminal  was 
seated  in  his  sister’s  house,  on  “The  Point,” 
with  his  sister’s  child  in  his  lap,  and  the  rec¬ 
ords  say  that  “alone  and  unaided”  Rowland 
Robinson  brought  this  desperate,  black¬ 
hearted  criminal  along  the  roads  and  across 
two  ferries  to  the  Tower  Hill  Jail. 

Carter  pleaded  not  guilty,  but  was  proved 
to  have  committed  the  crime  and  to  have 
endeavored  to  sell  the  deer-skins  and  poor 
Jackson’s  horse  in  Newport,  claiming  he 
had  bought  them  from  their  former  owner. 
Before  he  died  he  made  full  confession  of 
his  crime  and  gave  the  details  of  it.  There 
were  no  palliating  circumstances;  he  had 
simply  seen  that  his  benefactor  possessed 
what  amounted  to  wealth  in  those  days,  — 
namely,  one  pack  of  deer  leather,  to  the  val¬ 
ue  of  six  hundred  pounds  (English  money) , 
one  bag  of  silver  to  the  value  of  four  hun¬ 
dred  pounds,  one  horse  of  the  price  of 
eighty  pounds,  and  had  coveted  the  riches 
so  assembled,  perhaps  about  $5400.00  in 
our  present  money,  a  good  sum  in  those 

After  Carter  was  condemned,  he  was  kept 
in  handcuffs  continually  until  his  execution. 
Once  he  complained  to  his  jailer  that  they 
hurt  his  wrists.  The  jailer  sent  for  the 
blacksmith,  and  Mr.  Hull  knelt  before  the 
prisoner,  who  was  seated,  to  ease  the  fetters. 
They  were  connected  with  a  band  of  iron 
about  twelve  inches  long.  Quick  as  chain 
lightening  Carter  lifted  up  his  two  hands, 
fettered  as  they  were  and  struck  Hull  on  the 
head  with  terrific  force,  meaning,  of  course, 
to  overcome  him  and  make  his  escape.  He 
was  foiled  in  the  attempt,  however,  and  it 
is  said  he  “deeply  regretted”  that  his  effort 
had  been  in  vain. 

The  execution,  set  for  May  10th,  1751, 
between  the  hours  of  eleven  o’clock  in  the 
morning  and  two  o’clock  in  the  afternoon, 



was  duly  carried  out.  The  gibbet  was  erect¬ 
ed  by  the  roadside  on  the  eastern  part  of 
Tower  Hill,  the  sentence  being  that  he 
should  be  hanged  by  the  neck  until  he  was 
dead,  and  that  then  his  body  should  be  hung 
in  chains  nearby  the  place  of  execution  and 
left  there  until  consumed. 

The  Rev.  James  MacSparran,  D.D.,  be¬ 
fore  the  execution  preached  a  sermon  to  the 
condemned  man  and  to  the  multitude  as¬ 
sembled  to  see  him  hanged.  And  the  words 
of  the  good  man  shed  a  light  upon  this  dark 
picture,  for,  while  abhorring  the  crime,  and 
upholding  the  justice  of  his  execution,  he 
ended  with  these  words  of  Heavenly  com¬ 

“Oh,  Lord,  look  down  upon  this  unhap¬ 
py,  poor  man  who  needs  Thy  pity  and  Thy 
pardon.”  And  then :  “Oh,  let  not  him  whom 

we  are  now  commending  to  Thy  mercy  for¬ 
ever  perish  and  be  lost !  ” 

It  must  have  been  with  these  words  in  his 
ears  that  Carter  passed  to  his  fate. 

After  the  execution,  the  body  was  sus¬ 
pended  in  an  iron  frame  near  the  roadside, 
and  when  the  wind  blew,  the  chains  would 
creak  dreadfully  and  the  darkies  in  the 
neighborhood  were  too  terrified  to  pass  it 
in  the  dark  night. 

Thomas  R.  Hazard,  in  his  “Recollections 
of  the  Olden  Times,”  writes:  “When  I  was 
a  boy  I  used  to  sit  in  the  kitchen  chimney- 
corner  and  listen,  with  my  hair  on  end,  to 
Uncle  Sci  and  other  old  negroes  as  they  told 
how  scared  they  used  to  be  when  they  rode 
by  of  a  dark  night  and  heard  the  chains 
creaking  in  the  wind,  and  ever  and  anon  one 
of  Carter’s  bones  fall  cajunk  to  the  ground.” 


Like  many  another  early  religious  or  civil 
organization,  the  First  Baptist  Church, 
founded  in  Providence  by  Roger  Williams 
in  1638,  had  to  endure  the  lack  of  a  meet¬ 
ing  house  for  many  years,  alleviating  the 
difficulty  by  either  conducting  services  in 
the  homes  of  various  members  or  out-of- 
doors.  Perhaps  King  Philip’s  War  was  an 
ill  wind  that  brought  some  good,  for,  after 
that  conflict,  when  Providence  with  un¬ 
daunted  youthful  courage  was  rebuilding 
herself  and  forgetting  her  dreary  ashes,  all 
institutions  and  organizations  seemed  to 
spring  up  with  new  life  and  vigor  like  the 
fresh  green  that  soon  hides  the  wastes  of  a 
burnt  prairie.  And  thus,  by  1700,  the  First 
Baptist  Church,  under  the  leadership  of 
Pardon  Tillinghast,  had  grown  to  a  size 
where  a  meeting  house  became  an  absolute 
necessity.  Consequently,  Pardon  Tilling¬ 
hast,  at  his  own  expense,  erected  a  rude 
structure  at  the  northwest  corner  of  North 
Main  and  Smith  Streets  and,  in  1711,  deeded 
it  to  his  church.  This  building,  which  tra¬ 
dition  describes  as  resembling  “a  hay-cap, 
with  a  fire-place  in  the  middle,  the  smoke 
escaping  from  a  hole  in  the  roof,”  was  hard¬ 
ly  adequate  and  only  served  until  1726 
when  a  larger  building,  forty  feet  square, 

was  constructed  on  the  adjoining  lot  to  the 

During  the  next  fifty  years  the  Baptist 
Church  lost  much  of  its  first  momentum 
and  began  to  lag  behind  the  rapidly  grow¬ 
ing  Providence.  In  the  years  just  before 
the  Revolution,  when  the  town  population 
had  reached  4,000,  the  Baptists  had  only 
118  members,  but  then  in  1770,  the  Rev. 
James  Manning  came  from  Warren  to  Provi¬ 
dence  to  become  the  first  president  of  the 
tiny  hilltop  college,  soon  to  be  known  as 
Brown  University.  This  was  an  event  of 
deep  importance  to  the  First  Baptist  Church 
for  the  young  President  consented  to  serve 
as  its  acting  pastor.  Again  the  church  re¬ 
sponded  to  fresh  stimuli,  and  within  a  very 
short  time,  only  three  years,  plans  were  be¬ 
ing  discussed  for  the  building  of  a  large  new 
meeting  house  in  the  center  of  the  town. 
The  record  of  the  meeting,  held  in  the  home 
of  Daniel  Cahoon  in  1774,  reads  as  follows: 

“ Resolved ,  That  we  will  all  heartily  unite 
as  one  man  in  all  Lawfull  Ways  and  means 
to  promote  the  good  of  this  Society;  and 
particularly  to  attend  to  and  revive  the 
affair  of  Building  a  Meeting  House,  for  the 
publick  Worship  of  Almighty  God;  and 
also  for  holding  Commencement  in.” 

The  “affair”  was  certainly  revived  with  a 



will.  Backed  enthusiastically,  the  new  proj¬ 
ect  went  ahead  speedily.  About  5,000 
pounds  was  soon  raised  by  private  subscrip¬ 
tion  for  the  erection  of  a  building  sixty  feet 
square,  and  within  a  week  after  the  first 
meeting  it  was  decided  to  procure  a  lot  of 
land  from  John  Angell,  an  ideal  tract  lo¬ 
cated  in  the  center  of  the  town  and  only 
used  by  its  owner  as  an  apple  orchard.  The 
purchase  was  quickly  negotiated  by  Wil¬ 
liam  Russel,  and  five  days  later  Joseph 
Brown  and  Jonathan  Hammond  were  sent 
to  Boston  to  study  the  churches  there.  How¬ 
ever,  none  of  Boston’s  ecclesiastical  archi¬ 
tecture  pleased  them  as  well  as  a  particu¬ 
lar  design  which  they  found  in  James  Gibbs’ 
“Book  of  Architecture.” 

Both  because  Joseph  Brown  wished  to 
copy  this  design  of  a  Marybone  Chapel,  as 
shown  in  Gibbs’  book,  and  because,  due  to 
the  new  provision,  more  room  would  be 
needed  to  accommodate  graduating  classes 
at  Commencement  it  was  decided  to  increase 
the  size  of  the  building  to  eighty  feet 
square.  Therefore,  more  land  was  needed, 
and  an  adjoining  lot  on  the  South  was  pur¬ 
chased  from  Amaziah  Waterman  for  855 
pounds,  an  amount  equal  to  that  paid  to 
Angell.  In  addition  to  this  need  for  more 
land,  there  was  a  corresponding  need  for 
more  money,  and,  though  the  Baptists  were 
somewhat  reluctant  to  do  so,  they  secured 
the  permission  of  the  General  Assembly  to 
launch  a  public  lottery  in  order  to  raise 
about  2,000  more  pounds.  Around  twelve 
thousand  lottery  tickets  were  sold  through¬ 
out  New  England  at  prices  ranging  from 
two  and  one-half  to  five  dollars  each,  bring¬ 
ing  in  a  net  profit  of  1,900  pounds. 

Three  of  the  famous  Brown  brothers  had 
some  important  connection  with  the  erec¬ 
tion  of  the  building,  but  it  was  Joseph 
Brown  who  drew  up  the  detailed  plans.  He 
had  already  chosen  a  beautiful  design  for  a 
steeple  out  of  the  same  book  by  Gibbs,  but 
he  had  a  mass  of  further  detail  to  attend  to. 
The  skill  of  this  Rhode  Islander  was  truly 
amazing,  almost  rivalling  that  of  Peter  Har¬ 
rison,  and  to  this  day  prominent  architects 
can  scarcely  find  a  single  item  that  could  be 
changed  for  the  better.  The  fluted  Ionic 
columns,  the  unusually  large  capitals,  the 
groined  arches,  and  the  scrolls  and  panel¬ 
ling  display  a  mastery  of  architectural  line 

and  proportion  hardly  expected  of  an 

On  June  1, 1774,  ground  was  broken,  and 
on  August  29th,  when  the  side  frames  and 
roof  trusses  were  ready  to  be  raised,  the 
event  was  celebrated  by  a  general  holiday. 
In  less  than  a  year  from  the  latter  date,  on 
May  28,  1775,  the  building  was  dedicated, 
though  it  was  then  uncompleted,  for  the 
spire  had  yet  to  be  put  in  place.  President 
Manning,  on  that  memorable  morning,  took 
his  text  from  Genesis  28:17,  “This  is  none 
other  but  the  house  of  God,  and  this  is  the 
gate  of  Heaven.” 

The  pulpit  in  which  he  stood  was  more 
lofty  than  that  now  in  use  for  its  rail  was  on 
a  level  with  the  lower  line  of  the  gallery. 
Below  him  sat  the  deacons,  facing  the  audi¬ 
ence,  while  behind  him  was  a  beautiful 
Venetian  window,  partially  screened  by 
heavy  curtains  and  now  long  closed.  His 
congregation  sat  in  the  old-fashioned 
square  pews  which  had  seats  on  three  sides. 
There  were  126  of  these  pews  on  the  floor, 
but  at  that  time  the  gallery  had  benches 

Of  course,  it  is  the  auditorium  which  is 
of  the  greatest  interest  to  the  visitor.  This 
has  a  main  entrance  directly  through  the 
tower,  reached  by  double  stairways,  but 
there  are  also  two  entrances  in  the  rear  and 
one  each  at  both  the  north  and  south  sides. 
The  original  square  pews  were  removed  in 
1832,  and  144  new  pews  put  in.  At  the  same 
time  the  upper  gallery  at  the  west  end  which 
had  been  used  for  slaves  was  taken  away, 
the  sounding  board  was  dismantled,  and  the 
pulpit  altered.  Two  years  later  the  organ, 
a  gift  of  Nicholas  Brown,  was  installed,  but 
it  was  yet  fifty  years  before  the  recess  con¬ 
taining  the  baptistry  was  added.  The  seat¬ 
ing  capacity  of  the  main  floor  is  between 
800  and  900  persons,  while  the  gallery  will 
hold  between  500  and  600  more.  Such  a 
capacity  is  ample  for  the  regular  religious 
services,  but  now  much  too  small  for  con¬ 
ventions  or  college  exercises. 

One  of  the  most  beautiful  of  all  the  inte¬ 
rior  ornaments  is  the  crystal  chandelier 
which  hangs  in  the  main  auditorium.  It 
was  presented  by  Hope  Brown,  in  1792,  in 
memory  of  her  father,  the  first  Nicholas 
Brown,  and  it  is  believed  to  have  been  first 
lighted  on  the  evening  of  her  wedding  to 
Thomas  Poynton  Ives,  even  though  the 



ceremony  was  not  performed  in  the  meet¬ 
ing  house  but  in  the  family  home  on 
Thomas  Street.  The  chandelier  was  bought 
in  London,  but  the  glassware  was  probably 
made  in  the  famous  works  at  Waterford, 
Ireland.  Up  to  1884,  the  24  globes  were 
fitted  with  candles,  and  the  chandelier  itself 
attached  by  a  long  chain  hanging  from  the 
attic  of  the  building.  The  raising  and  lower¬ 
ing  was  aided  by  a  counterweight,  consist¬ 
ing  of  a  box  filled  with  Revolutionary 
cannon  balls  and  bar  shot.  In  1884  an  ad¬ 
dition,  for  the  baptistry,  was  made  to  the 
rear  of  the  building  and  a  stained  glass 
window  was  added  as  a  memorial  to  Mrs. 
Hope  Ives  by  her  granddaughter,  Mrs.  Wil¬ 
liam  Gammell.  The  crystal  chandelier  was 
fitted  with  gas  burners  and  an  iron  pipe 
took  the  place  of  the  chain.  However,  by 
1914,  with  the  substitution  of  electricity, 
the  original  chain  was  restored.  There  have 
been  various  other  kinds  of  subsidiary  light¬ 
ing  fixtures,  ranging  from  crude  whale-oil 
lamps  to  the  present  indirect  electric  light¬ 
ing.  The  means  for  heating  the  building 
passed  through  similar  elementary  stages 
of  development  which  began  with  foot- 
stoves  carried  to  the  services  by  members 
who  could  afford  them. 

Those  who  climb  up  the  several  flights 
of  stairs  to  the  attic  over  the  auditorium 
may  see  the  sturdy  Colonial  architecture, 
the  huge  crossbeams  of  oak,  held  mostly 
by  wooden  pins,  and  the  wooden  pulley  and 
windlass  for  raising  the  chandelier.  Another 
flight  brings  one  to  the  great  tower  clock. 
The  present  one  was  installed  in  1873, 
being  the  gift  of  Henry  C.  Packard,  but  the 
first  clock,  brought  over  from  England, 
had  previously  served  as  the  town’s  prin¬ 
cipal  timepiece  for  about  one  hundred 
years.  The  present  dials  are  seven  feet  in 
diameter,  made  of  ground  glass  and  illumi¬ 
nated  automatically  by  electricity. 

By  climbing  yet  one  more  flight,  an  ener¬ 
getic  visitor  may  arrive  at  the  small  open 
space  beside  the  bell,  a  spot  midway  be¬ 
tween  the  tip  of  the  steeple  and  the  ground. 

The  total  height  is  185  feet.  The  bell,  four 
inches  thick,  and  weighing  2,500  pounds, 
was  brought  from  England  at  the  same  time 
as  the  original  clock.  Rung  too  vigorously 
in  1787,  it  cracked  and  had  to  be  twice  re¬ 
cast  before  it  was  completely  mended. 
When  clocks  in  the  town  were  few,  this  bell 
rang  regularly  at  sunrise  to  wake  the  peo¬ 
ple;  at  noon  to  announce  the  dinner  hour, 
and  at  night  for  the  curfew,  a  custom  which 
has  long  been  continued. 

This  is,  of  course,  but  the  merest  summary 
of  the  history  and  architecture  of  this  fa¬ 
mous  old  building.  Mr.  Norman  M.  Isham 
has  undoubtedly  compiled  the  most  com¬ 
plete  survey  of  the  structure  in  a  book  which 
he  assembled  on  the  occasion  of  the  one 
hundred  and  fiftieth  anniversary  of  the 
erection  of  the  building.  But,  herein  we 
may  at  least  pay  our  bit  of  homage  and 
inspire  our  bit  of  interest  in  this  beautiful 
example  of  Colonial  “Georgian”  architec¬ 
ture.  Its  slim,  delicately-formed  spire  has 
won  increasing  admiration  with  the  years, 
while  its  stern,  yet  charming  interior  may 
be  said  to  have  incorporated  an  intangible 
spirit  of  holiness.  Though  this  meeting 
house  has  shown  a  ruggedness  of  construc¬ 
tion  which  has  enabled  it  to  withstand  the 
gales  and  tempests  of  the  passing  years — 
and  even  the  greatest  of  these,  such  as  the 
storm  of  1815 — it  is  now  given  more  of  the 
attention  which  it  deserves.  It  is  inspected 
annually  with  the  greatest  of  care,  and 
more  than  once  have  sums  exceeding  its 
original  cost  been  expended  in  its  upkeep. 
Yet,  the  old  meeting  house  which  has  been 
the  scene  of  so  many  great  public  memorial 
services  has  been  maintained  in  its  original 
purpose  and  condition.  Its  location  at  the 
corner  of  North  Main  and  Waterman 
Streets  is  now  unique,  for  it  is  the  exact 
geographical  center  of  the  city.  As  the  dec¬ 
ades  pass  the  building  becomes  a  heritage 
of  increasing  charm  and  value  to  the  resi¬ 
dents  of  Providence  and  an  intriguing  and 
beautiful  landmark  for  many  who  visit  this 
growing  city. 




Many  men”  seem  to  have  had  “many 
minds”  in  relation  to  the  origin  of 
the  name  “Point  Judith.”  Some  say  it 
was  named  for  the  wife  of  John  Hull,  Bos¬ 
ton  goldsmith  and  mintmaster,  while  others 
claim  that  it  was  named  for  Judith  Stod¬ 
dard,  mother  of  Mrs.  John  Hull.  Also,  there 
is  the  legend  that  the  name  was  given  by 
some  churchmen  from  Boston  who  came 
here  to  deprive  by  trickery  some  prospec¬ 
tive  buyers  of  the  land.  They  took  the  name 
from  the  Bible,  in  which  it  appears  as  rep¬ 
resenting  the  southern  part  of  Canaan  which 
was  allotted  to  the  Tribe  of  Judah,  and  these 
men  chose  to  call  the  southeastern  boundary 
of  their  pretended  purchase  “Point  Judith.” 
And  then,  just  as  we  apparently  get  the  mat¬ 
ter  straightened  out,  we  see  that  on  some  of 
the  earliest  maps  the  name  is  printed  “Point 
Juda  Neck.” 

Perhaps  the  most  childish  theory  is  that 
the  name  came  through  the  ejaculation  of  a 
harassed  seaman.  The  story  goes  that  a 
Nantucket  captain  was  lost  in  a  fog  and 
did  not  know  in  which  direction  to  steer.  His 
daughter,  in  the  boat  with  him,  presently 
cried  out  that  she  spied  land.  The  old  Cap¬ 
tain,  not  so  quick  to  see  it,  commanded 
anxiously,  “P’int,  Judy,  p’int!”  But  by 
the  name  of  “Point  Judith”  this  point  of 
land  is  now  known  to  all  mariners  as  one  of 
the  most  dangerous  spots  along  the  Atlantic 
coast.  It  is  on  the  west  side  of  Narragansett 
Bay,  and  was  discovered  in  1524  by  Verra- 
zano,  a  Venetian,  also  the  discoverer  of 
Block  Island. 

Point  Judith  is  a  part  of  the  town  of  Nar¬ 
ragansett,  and  the  famous  “Pettaquamscott 
Purchase”  covered  the  land  that  the  boun¬ 
daries  of  this  town  and  those  of  South  Kings¬ 
town  now  outline. 

Samuel  Sewall  was  one  of  the  seven  orig¬ 
inal  purchasers  of  this  tract.  He  bought 
many  acres  on  the  west  side  of  “The  Great 
Pond”  (Atlantic  Ocean).  This  was  Point 
Judith.  Judge  Sewall  it  was  who  married 
Hannah,  only  daughter  of  the  Boston  gold¬ 
smith  and  mintmaster  before  mentioned. 
She  it  was  whom  her  father  placed  on  one 

side  of  a  great  scale  on  her  wedding  day  and 
in  the  presence  of  the  assembled  guests 
carefully  balanced  the  other  side  with  shin¬ 
ing,  new  “Pine  Tree  Shillings.”  Not  until 
the  scale  was  perfectly  balanced  did  the 
silver  stream  of  coins  cease  flowing. 

Edith  Sheldon  says  that  five  tribes  of 
Indians  lived  in  the  Point  Judith  section 
when  the  English  came.  There  were  Pe- 
quots,  Niantics,  Nipmucks,  Wampanoags 
and  Narragansetts.  The  latter  tribe  was 
dominant,  and  its  members  were  said  to  be 
great  home  lovers.  When  obliged  to  leave 
their  habitations  temporarily,  it  was  cus¬ 
tomary  to  fasten  the  doors  from  the  inside 
with  a  cord  or  a  wooden  bolt,  the  last  Indian 
making  his  exit  by  way  of  the  chimney, — or 
that  hole  in  the  top  of  the  structure  that 
served  as  an  outlet  for  the  smoke. 

The  same  writer  also  says  that  perhaps 
the  earliest  temperance  petition  was  made 
by  Pessicus,  Sachem  of  the  Narragansetts. 
In  this  petition  he  prayed  King  Charles  to 
forbid  the  bringing  of  strong  waters  into 
the  country,  for,  he  said,  he  already  had  lost 
thirty-two  men  who  “dyed”  from  drinking 

Another  historian  says  that  Canonchet 
was  a  wise  and  peaceful  Indian  prince  of 
goodly  stature  and  of  great  courage  of  mind. 
Roger  Williams  called  him  “The  Father  of 
his  Country”  a  hundred  and  fifty  years  be¬ 
fore  Washington  was  so  called. 

It  is  said  that  the  first  white  settlers  in 
Narragansett  built  their  houses  as  they  had 
been  accustomed  to  do  in  less  tempestuous 
localities,  but  that  the  winds  and  the  storms 
caused  such  havoc  to  these  “frail  tenements” 
that  the  use  of  the  heavy  timbers  and  the 
building  of  the  great  stone  chimneys  still  to 
be  seen  in  ancient  houses  in  this  vicinity 
became  a  necessity. 

Point  Judith  was  a  favored  locality  for 
the  raising  of  “Narragansett  Pacers.”  These 
“Pacers”  were  wonderful  horses  of  Arabian 
origin.  The  first  Rowland  Robinson  in  Nar¬ 
ragansett  brought  the  first  horse  of  this 
breed  into  this  country.  He  turned  him 
loose  in  his  Point  Judith  pastures  and  bred 
him  in  with  the  native  stock.  These  cross 



breeds  became  enormously  popular  as 
saddle-horses.  They  had  a  very  even  gait, 
they  were  very  fleet  and  could  easily  carry 
quite  a  load  in  addition  to  their  riders.  The 
farmers  raised  these  “Pacers,”  and  so  many 
were  sold  in  the  West  Indies  and  in  Virginia, 
annually,  that  at  last  not  a  mare  was  left 
in  town.  So  far  as  is  known  there  are  now 
no  “Narragansett  Pacers”  in  this  country. 

They  used  to  race  these  wonderful,  fleet 
creatures  on  “Little  Neck  Beach,”  or  the 
“Pier  Beach,”  we  call  it  now.  Dr.  Mac- 
Sparran  testified  that  he  saw  some  of  these 
horses  pace  a  mile  in  a  little  more  than  two 
minutes,  but  in  much  less  than  three 

Slaves  used  to  be  kept  on  Point  Judith, 
and  there  was  a  law  that  they  could  not  be 
out  after  nine  o’clock  in  the  evening.  If 
they  were,  their  masters  had  to  whip  them 
with  ten  blows,  and  if  the  masters  failed  to 
do  this  they  might  be  fined  ten  dollars.  The 
black  people  were  locked  into  the  garrets 
of  the  farmhouses  at  night. 

At  first  the  slaves  had  but  one  name,  but 
later  on,  wishing  to  have  two  names  like  the 
rest  of  people,  they  would  take  on  the  names 
of  their  masters, — thus  there  came  to  be 
many  negro  Helmes,  Watsons,  Olneys,  Rob¬ 
insons,  etc. 

The  early  school  on  Point  Judith  would 
make  “another  story,”  so  suffice  it  to  say 
that  there  were  men  teachers  in  winter  and 
women  teachers  in  summer.  Winter  terms 
did  not  begin  until  the  fall  work  was  done 
and  the  crops  in.  The  teachers  “boarded 
around,”  staying  a  certain  number  of  nights 
to  each  child  in  the  family  that  attended 
school.  They  never  boarded  in  working¬ 
men’s  homes,  but  in  the  farmhouses.  One 
teacher,  because  of  his  short  stay  at  each 
home,  made  the  remark  that  he  “went 
around  warming  beds.” 

At  the  time  of  the  Revolution,  lower  Point 
Judith  was  owned  by  one  Richard  Walcott, 
a  Tory,  who  found  it  desirable  to  take  a 
trip  to  England.  The  State  reserved  one 
common  lot  where  all  the  farmers  might 
gather  seaweed  from  the  shore  with  which 
to  fertilize  their  land,  and  gave  two  farms 
to  Walcott’s  daughter,  whom  they  judged 
as  not  being  deserving  of  losing  all  of  her 
father’s  property.  The  rest  of  the  land  the 
State  divided  into  six  farms  which  were 
sold  at  auction. 

During  the  Revolution,  the  farmers  had  a 
hidden  lot  in  Borland  Lot  Woods.  It  was 
called  “The  Federal  Lot,”  and  to  this  place, 
through  woodsy  lanes,  they  would  drive 
their  stock  to  hide  it  from  the  eyes  of  the 
British.  There  are  no  records  that  the  stock 
was  ever  discovered  by  the  enemy  in  this 
secret  place.  This  hiding-place  was  not  the 
only  one  of  which  the  rebels  to  the  King 
availed  themselves.  The  first  post-office  on 
Point  Judith  was  in  a  hollow  elm  tree.  The 
tree  was  on  the  estate  now  owned  by  Mrs. 
Depew,  and  into  it  went  many  a  letter  of 
instructions  to  our  men,  and  the  British 
were  never  able  to  locate  the  “post-office.” 

It  is  not  certain  when  the  first  light-house 
was  built  but,  according  to  tradition,  one 
was  erected  in  1806.  Whether  this  wooden 
light-house  was  the  original  one,  or  whether 
it  replaced  a  former  light-house,  is  not 
known,  but  it  is  certain  that  this  1806  light¬ 
house  was  blown  down  in  the  Great  Gale  of 
September  23,  1815. 

One  of  the  Knowles  family  has  recorded 
that  “On  that  day  the  tide  reached  its  high¬ 
est  point  at  about  eleven  o’clock  in  the 
morning.  Driven  by  a  furious  wind,  the 
water  roared  over  the  Point,  demolishing 
the  light-house  and  all  other  things  in  its 
way.  The  flood-tide  broke  over  the  sand¬ 
banks  between  the  ocean  and  the  pond, 
carrying  away  the  old  banks  and  filling  in 
the  pond  for  a  mile-and-a-half  back,  form¬ 
ing  marshes  and  flats.  When  the  tide  re¬ 
ceded,  late  in  the  afternoon,  it  cut  out  a 
deep  channel,  forming  what  is  now  called 
The  Breachway. 

“After  the  Great  Gale,  oysters  became  so 
plentiful  that  one  man  could  get  twenty-five 
bushels  a  day.  They  sold  for  from  twelve 
to  twenty  cents  per  bushel. 

“As  soon  as  the  gale  was  over,  plans  were 
at  once  started  to  build  a  new  stone  light¬ 
house  which  was  put  into  commission  in 
the  late  summer  of  1816.  The  light  is  at  the 
top  of  a  stone  tower  fifty  feet  high,  and 
about  seventy-five  feet  above  the  water 
mark.  It  is  known  as  a  fourth  order  light, 
there  being  three  types  with  larger  lenses. 

“Hazard  Knowles,  of  Jamestown,  came 
into  possession  of  the  two  south  farms  on 
the  Point,  sold  by  the  State  after  the  War  of 
1775,  and  it  is  recorded  in  the  family  that 



he  sold  to  the  United  States  the  lot  for  the 
first  light-house.” 

The  Great  Gale  of  1815  marked  tragedy 
to  William  Knowles,  his  son,  and  their  five 
workmen  at  Sand  Hill  Cove.  They  had 
brought  potatoes  down  to  the  shore  in  an 
ox-cart  to  be  put  on  board  a  schooner.  There 
was  no  wharf,  and  their  method  of  loading 
was  to  drive  the  animals  into  the  water  as 
far  as  they  could,  turn  them  around,  and 
load  the  potatoes  in  sacks  into  a  small  boat. 
Then  they  would  row  the  boat  out  to  the 
schooner  waiting  to  receive  them.  One  of 
the  family  has  told  how  for  many  a  day  in 

his  youth  he  stood  knee-deep  in  the  water 
all  day  engaged  in  this  kind  of  work. 

On  the  momentous  day  of  September 
23rd,  1815,  the  workers  saw  the  approach¬ 
ing  gale  and  hastened  for  the  shore.  They 
were  just  drawing  their  boat  up  over  the 
hank  when  the  fury  of  the  storm  smote  them. 
They  had  left  the  ox-cart  nearby  and  the  old 
man  rushed  for  it.  His  body  was  found, 
three  days  later,  locked  into  one  of  the 
wheels  of  the  cart  about  three  miles  up  the 
salt  pond.  The  bodies  of  the  workmen  were 
found  the  day  after  the  storm,  and  the  son’s 
was  found  the  following  day. 


“Yule,  yule,  yule, 

Three  puddings  in  a  pule, 

Crack  nuts  and  cry  yule.” 

Snatches  of  Christmas  ballads  and  folk¬ 
songs  like  this  were  typical  of  the  sea¬ 
son  in  Old  England  at  the  time  when  so 
many  were  separating  from  the  mother 
country  for  diverse  reasons  and  coming  to 
new  colonies  along  the  Atlantic  seaboard 
of  our  western  continent.  Old  England 
went  into  the  matter  of  celebrating  Christ¬ 
mas  in  thorough  fashion,  following  cus¬ 
toms  laid  down  through  many  centuries. 
The  day  itself  was  given  to  solemn  worship 
in  the  chapels,  churches  and  cathedrals, 
but  the  eve  before  and  the  twelve  days  after 
were  devoted  to  revelry  and  all  sorts  of 
parties  and  festivals.  All  the  “pubs”  were 
crowded  with  merry  burghers ;  aunts, 
uncles,  cousins,  and  grandchildren  de¬ 
scended  in  droves  to  transform  quiet  old 
estates  and  sedate  households  into  places 
where  joviality  was  king  and  jubilant  good 
fellowship  the  rule.  Families  were  re¬ 
united;  boys  and  girls  flocked  home  from 
school;  shops  closed  or  themselves  entered 
into  the  zest  of  the  season ;  and  everywhere 
reigned  the  best  of  good  spirits. 

And  yet  many,  like  the  Puritans,  revolted 
against  such  a  spread  of  fine  feeling,  and, 
coming  to  New  England,  abolished  all  ob¬ 
servance  of  the  day.  Perhaps  it  was  mainly 
because  the  English  church  sponsored  such 
celebration  at  Christmas,  and  they  wanted 
to  break  from  this  church  in  every  possible 

way.  At  any  rate,  Christmas  was  generally 
ignored  by  our  stern  old  New  England 
ancestors,  until  the  18th  century  was  well 
under  way.  Shops  kept  open  as  usual,  and 
the  people  went  about  their  business  with 
little  thought  of  the  holiday  season.  Toward 
the  end  of  the  17th  century  there  was  some 
revival  of  interest  and  a  partial  return  to 
the  observance  of  Christmas,  but  those  who 
opposed  the  idea  were  in  the  majority  at  the 
time,  and  it  was  many  years  afterwards  that 
the  day  was  formally  set  aside,  shops  closed, 
and  the  season  entered  into  with  zest  and 

Yet  as  every  rule  has  its  exceptions,  so  in 
New  England  there  were  some  communities 
which  transported  all  the  English  customs 
en  masse  to  this  country,  and  as  far  as  possi¬ 
ble  lived  here  much  the  same  kind  of  life 
they  had  followed  in  England.  And  of 
course  they  transplanted,  among  other  cus¬ 
toms,  the  full  celebration  of  Christmas. 
Generally  this  was  true  in  the  case  of  the 
more  opulent  villages  and  townships,  and 
particularly  true  of  Old  Narragansett  in 
Rhode  Island.  Here  the  observance  of  the 
season  resembled  that  of  the  Dutch  settle¬ 
ments  in  New  York.  Visiting  was  in  order; 
games  were  played;  and  the  taverns  catered 
to  large  gatherings  of  jolly  townsfolk. 

Whereas  in  England  Christmas  drew  all 
the  relatives  of  huge  families  together,  in 
sections  like  Old  Narragansett  the  holidays 
bound  whole  townships  into  a  sort  of  com¬ 
mon  family,  in  which  all  celebrated  almost 
as  one  unit  and  shared  their  various  joys 



and  advantages.  In  short,  the  Christmas 
period  became  a  time  of  “open  house” 
where  for  two  weeks  all  were  engaged  in  one 
grand  carnival  of  visiting  back  and  forth 
and  feasting.  Christmas  morning  started  the 
festivities  off,  and  until  long  after  New 
Year’s  both  the  families  of  planters  and 
those  of  their  slave  servants  enjoyed  them¬ 
selves  to  the  full. 

What  a  time  it  was!  For  weeks  ahead 
young  folks  studied  their  books  and  learned 
their  lessons  with  only  half  a  normal  dili¬ 
gence.  And  as  the  great  day  drew  closer 
their  excitement  knew  no  bounds.  Well  it 
might,  for  in  the  big  farmhouses  on  the 
Narragansett  plantations  all  was  bustle  in 
preparation  for  the  ensuing  holidays.  Spe¬ 
cial  yule  logs  for  the  great  fireplaces  were 
being  drawn  in  by  pairs  of  horses  or,  more 
probably,  teams  of  oxen.  Housewives  were 
busy  at  the  task  of  burnishing  their  pew- 
terware  and  putting  their  houses  in  order 
for  the  guests  who  would  soon  be  arriving. 
There  were  Christmas  greens  to  be  gathered, 
punch  to  be  brewed,  and  many  a  surrepti¬ 
tious  stealing  away  to  town  or  to  the  village 
store  to  procure  presents.  The  stores  of 
candles  were  looked  over  and  the  best  se¬ 
lected  and  placed  ready  in  the  candlesticks 
and  candelabras. 

The  kitchens  of  these  old  farmhouses 
were  generally  the  most  picturesque  of  all 
rooms.  It  was  only  necessary  to  peep  into 
them  and  get  a  whiff  of  their  delightful 
aroma  to  tell  just  about  what  was  going  to 
take  place  in  the  house  itself.  There,  all 
preparations  for  festivities  of  various  na¬ 
tures  reached  a  climax,  for  what  celebration 
or  festival  of  any  sort  was  complete  without 
its  share  of  feasting? 

Christmas  brought  more  work  and  prep¬ 
aration  than  Thanksgiving.  More  chickens, 
ducks,  and  geese  met  their  doom  at  this 
time  than  at  any  other  festive  period.  Whole 
sides  of  beef  and  sheep  were  roasted  too  in 
barbecue  fashion.  Then  there  were  the  pud¬ 
dings  and  pies,  and  all  the  thousand  and 
one  little  delicacies  to  be  gobbled  up  by  the 
many  guests.  This  was  a  time  when  the 
colored  cooks  displayed  their  mastery  of  the 
culinary  art,  and  they  were  in  their  glory. 

But  what  of  the  day  itself?  Well,  as  we 
have  said,  the  festivities  swung  into  action 
early  Christmas  morning,  when  families 

would  be  awakened  unusually  early  by  the 
clamoring  children.  No  dozing  in  bed,  no 
stealing  of  last  cat-naps  on  such  a  morning ! 
It  had  been  long  awaited,  the  moment  for 
which  great  plans  had  been  made,  the  hour 
when  presents  were  exchanged  and  opened, 
when  the  first  greetings  were  bandied  back 
and  forth.  This  was  the  intimate  celebration 
for  separate  families,  the  most  delightful 
perhaps  of  all  that  took  place. 

For  the  children  it  was  the  most  fascinat¬ 
ing!  The  older  folks  were  more  sedate  in 
their  sentiment,  but  the  young  folks  bubbled 
over  with  hilarity.  Now  the  toys  that  had 
been  carefully  hidden  by  parents  came  into 
the  hands  of  their  rightful  owners.  There 
were  not  many  of  them,  but  it  does  not  take 
many  to  thrill  and  satisfy  a  childish  heart. 
For  the  girls  there  were  dolls,  some  made  by 
the  slaves,  others  brought  all  the  way  from 
Old  England  on  some  packet.  And  for  the 
boys  there  were  all  sorts  of  odd  gifts  rang¬ 
ing  from  small  pocket  knives  to  balls  and 
bats,  and  marbles.  Mittens,  knitted  from 
red  and  other  colored  yarn  by  patient  aunts 
and  grandmothers,  were  presented  all 
round,  and  then  there  was  generally  an 
uncle  to  slip  a  silver  shilling  or  two, 
or  perhaps  even  a  half-crown  or  sovereign 
into  an  eager  hand.  But  these  were  only 
some  of  the  many  things  to  delight  young 
hearts.  Perhaps  also  there  were  bundles 
unwrapped,  revealing  pairs  of  skates,  or 
guns,  or  little  brooches,  watches,  or  what 

All  too  soon  these  early  hours  of  excite¬ 
ment  were  over,  and  it  became  time  for  the 
whole  family  to  bundle  into  sleighs  or 
carriages  (if  there  was  a  lack  of  snow)  and 
drive  off  to  church.  There,  perhaps  in  St. 
Paul’s,  now  gone,  they  joined  many  of  the 
other  families  of  the  countryside  in  the 
Episcopal  Christmas  service  through  the 
rest  of  Christmas  morning. 

This  done,  the  religious  services  over,  the 
long  term  of  “open  house”  began.  Children, 
all  bundled  up,  trudged  through  the  snow 
or  piled  into  sleighs  with  their  elders  to 
travel  the  winding  country  roads  to  neigh¬ 
boring  farmhouses.  Everywhere  each  visit 
was  a  little  celebration  of  its  own.  Those 
who  were  guests  at  one  hour  might  be  hosts 
the  next.  What  puddings,  what  candy,  what 
Christmas  brews  were  consumed!  And  how 



many  a  bashful  girl  was  captured  under  the 
mistletoe  by  a  watchful  and  ready  admirer ! 
It  was  a  gay  time,  a  happy  time  for  young 
and  old.  In  many  of  the  larger  houses  where 
room  was  available,  evening  guests,  upon 
arriving,  found  a  musician  or  two  tuning  up 
and  knew  the  special  treat  of  a  dance  was  in 
immediate  store. 

Thus  it  went  on  day  after  day,  night  after 
night,  until  it  seemed  that  there  could  be  no 
more  jollity,  no  more  merriment  possible. 

New  Year’s  Day  brought  a  fresh  surge  of 
fun-making  in  the  middle  of  the  long  festi¬ 
val  and  then  twelfth  night  brought  every¬ 
thing  to  a  close.  And  that  marked  the  end  of 
the  old-time  Narragansett  Christmas  season, 
a  holiday  season  that  has  long  since  passed, 
and  that  was  never  equalled  in  other  parts 
of  Rhode  Island.  For  an  abundance  of 
sheer  joy  and  good  fellowship  it  was  almost 
as  fine  as  that  celebrated  through  many  cen¬ 
turies  in  Old  England. 


OF  all  the  industries  from  which  the 
young  and  growing  port  of  Providence 
gained  its  strength  the  greatest  was  ship¬ 
ping.  Roger  Williams  may  have  foreseen 
that,  because  of  its  position  at  the  head  of 
Narragansett  Bay,  Providence,  by  its  ships 
and  commerce,  would  rise  to  fame.  Even  if 
the  vision  was  not  in  his  mind,  it  certainly 
was  in  the  minds  of  many  of  the  early  set¬ 
tlers  who  had  begun  to  think  of  other  things 
besides  the  inevitable  planting  of  crops. 
Visions  are  not  always  realized  by  those 
who  possess  them,  and  in  spite  of  the  fact 
that  Providence  was  founded  in  1636,  it  was 
not  until  1652  that  John  Smith  shipped  to 
Newfoundland  “.  .  .  forty -nine  roles  of  to¬ 
bacco,  one  hogshead  of  fleure,  and  thirteen 
bushels  of  pease.”  This  marked  the  begin¬ 
ning  of  the  great  export  trade  of  Provi¬ 
dence.  At  that  time  no  facilities  for  ship¬ 
ping  were  available,  a  condition  no  definite 
step  was  taken  to  remedy  until  1689,  when 
Pardon  Tillinghast  —  called  today  the 
“Father  of  Providence  shipping”  —  built  a 
warehouse  on  a  small  tract  of  land  granted 
to  him  by  the  town  fathers.  Shortly  after, 
Tillinghast  also  built  a  wharf  at  the  foot  of 
what  is  now  Transit  Street.  Others  were 
quick  to  follow  his  example,  and  wharves 
and  warehouses  came  into  being  almost  over 
night.  This  sudden  development  gave  com¬ 
merce  great  impetus,  not  only  with  the  other 
Colonies  but  with  the  famed  West  Indies. 

Following  the  building  of  wharves  came 
the  building  of  ships  and,  in  1711,  Nathan¬ 
iel  Brown  was  granted  land  to  establish  a 
shipyard  on  Weybosset  Neck  (now  in  the 

heart  of  the  city).  Other  shipyards  were 
established,  one  at  the  southern  end  of 
Towne  Street  and  another  at  a  point  which 
is  now  the  foot  of  Waterman  Street. 

The  leadership  in  the  development  of 
shipping  was  taken  by  the  families  headed 
by  Tillinghast  and  Colonel  Nicholas  Power. 
The  latter  married  Mercy  Tillinghast.  A 
daughter  of  this  union  was  Hope  Power, 
and  it  is  at  this  period  in  the  history  of  the 
families  that  the  name  of  Brown  begins  its 
rise  to  fame.  Hope  Power  married  James 
Brown,  a  great-grandson  of  Chad  Brown 
who  had  followed  Williams  from  Massa¬ 
chusetts  into  the  wilderness  of  the  Narra¬ 
gansett  Bay  region. 

James  Brown  was  engaged  in  shipping  in 
one  way  or  another  from  the  time  he  was  a 
young  man  to  his  death.  At  first  as  a  sailor, 
then  as  master  of  a  vessel,  the  young  Cap¬ 
tain  Brown  set  up  a  shop  on  Towne  Street,  in 
1723.  Although  James  Brown  was  founder 
of  the  business,  being  joined  later  by  his 
brother,  Obadiah,  it  was  for  the  four  sons  of 
the  former  that  the  shipping  trade  opened 
up  its  greatest  possibilities.  James  Brown 
died  prematurely  in  1739,  and  Obadiah 
took  three  of  his  brother’s  sons,  Nicholas, 
Joseph,  and  John,  into  business  with  him. 
Moses  Brown  joined  his  brothers  some 
years  later  when  the  business  had  been 

Nicholas,  the  eldest,  instead  of  appro¬ 
priating  a  double  portion  of  his  father’s 
estate,  as  was  allowed  by  the  Colonial  laws, 
divided  the  property  equally  among  his 
brothers  and  sister.  Joseph,  the  second  of 
the  brothers,  remained  in  the  shipping  firm 



only  a  short  while.  He  found  the  desire  to 
study  stronger  than  the  lure  of  the  commer¬ 
cial  trade  and  withdrew  to  take  up  the  study 
of  philosophy.  Eventually,  he  became  Pro¬ 
fessor  of  Experimental  Philosophy  at 
Brown  University.  The  next  in  line  in  the 
Brown  family  was  John.  Until  1782  he  re¬ 
mained  one  of  the  firm,  but  finally  estab¬ 
lished  his  own  shipbuilding  and  trading 
company  at  India  Point.  The  last  of  the 
four,  Moses,  survived  his  noted  brothers  by 
many  years.  He  not  only  had  had  the  early 
apprenticeship  with  his  uncle,  Obadiah,  but 
also  served  in  the  firm  of  Nicholas  Brown 
&  Company  for  ten  years. 

John  Brown,  it  was,  who  laid  the  founda¬ 
tion  for  the  great  firm  of  Brown  &  Ives.  He 
took  as  a  first  partner,  John  Francis,  a  Phil¬ 
adelphia  merchant,  who  continued  as  a 
member  of  the  firm  until  his  death  in  1796. 
A  Mr.  Benson  was  also  a  member,  retiring 
in  the  same  year,  being  superceded  by 
Thomas  Poynton  Ives.  Thomas  Poynton 
Ives  had  married  Nicholas  Brown’s  daugh¬ 
ter  and  thus  had  previously  become  a  part¬ 
ner  of  the  four  brothers  in  the  original  ship¬ 
ping  firm.  Thus  was  formed  the  great 
commercial  firm  of  Brown  &  Ives,  destined 
to  be  the  most  powerful  business  firm  in  the 
early  life  of  the  Providence  colony. 

John  Brown  built  bridges,  wharves,  and 
warehouses,  and  constantly  extended  his 
region  of  trade  to  the  ports  of  the  entire 
world,  particularly  to  those  of  the  East  In¬ 
dies.  In  the  meanwhile,  Thomas  Poynton 
Ives,  the  partner,  had  risen  to  fame  in  an¬ 
other  line  outside  shipping.  He  had  become 
the  first  president  of  the  Providence  Insti¬ 
tution  for  Savings,  and  had  served  from  its 
founding  in  1819  until  1835. 

Many  famous  ships  were  built  by  the  firm 
of  Brown  &  Ives  and  sent  out  from  Provi¬ 
dence.  In  1787,  John  Brown  had  sent  the  first 
ship  to  the  East  Indies.  She  was  the  “General 
George  Washington.”  This  great  ship,  the 
first  of  three  to  be  named  after  the  first 
president  of  the  United  States,  made  many 
subsequent  voyages,  to  India  and  even  to 
Russia.  The  next  ship  was  the  “President 
Washington,”  while  the  third  was  named 
the  “George  Washington.”  The  latter,  after 
a  very  successful  record  of  service  for  the 
Providence  shipping  firm,  was  sold  by  John 
Brown  to  the  government  and  was  turned 
into  a  frigate.  She  was  the  famous  ship  that 

was  sailed  to  Constantinople  by  Captain 

Other  notable  ships,  built  by  the  firm  of 
which  John  Brown  was  long  a  member,  al¬ 
though  the  partners  changed  from  time  to 
time,  were  the  “John  Jay,”  and  the  “Ann  & 
Hope,”  the  latter  being  named  for  the  wives 
of  John  Brown  and  Thomas  Poynton  Ives. 
Both  ships  had  short  careers  and  were 
wrecked.  The  “John  Jay”  went  to  pieces 
after  she  had  struck  a  reef  in  the  East  Indies, 
while  the  “Ann  &  Hope”  ran  aground  off 
Block  Island. 

In  the  Revolution,  one  of  the  ships  built 
by  John  Brown  played  a  very  prominent 
part.  She  was  a  tiny  vessel,  the  “Provi¬ 
dence,”  and  had  formerly  been  called  the 
“Katie.”  Purchased  by  the  Colonial  Gov¬ 
ernment,  she  became  part  of  the  first  United 
States  fleet,  commanded  by  Commodore 
Hopkins  of  Rhode  Island.  The  “Provi¬ 
dence,”  though  sometimes  called  a  brig,  was 
rigged  as  a  sloop.  She  mounted  twelve  six- 
pounders  and  ten  swivels  and  carried  a  crew 
of  90  men,  28  of  whom  were  marines.  Cap¬ 
tain  Hazard  was  her  first  commander  but 
when  he  was  later  court  martialed,  John 
Paul  Jones  became  Captain.  Under  this 
young  officer,  who  was  later  destined  to  be¬ 
come  great  in  American  naval  circles,  she 
did  an  endless  amount  of  raiding  and  con¬ 
voy  duty  in  the  vicinity  of  Cape  Breton 
and  Louisburg. 

It  was  after  Captain  Jones  had  been 
called  to  the  command  of  a  larger  ship  that 
the  little  sloop,  under  Captain  Hacker,  cap¬ 
tured  the  English  brig  “Diligent.”  Suffering 
the  fate  of  a  number  of  other  ships  of  the 
young  American  Navy  which  were  de¬ 
stroyed  or  captured  in  a  disastrous  engage¬ 
ment  with  the  enemy  in  the  Penobscot  Bay, 
she  remained  lost  to  the  Colonies  after  that 

Many  other  ships  might  easily  be  named 
among  the  many  that  were  built  by  the  firm 
of  Brown  &  Ives.  The  “Hope”  and  the  brig 
“Eliza”  were  two,  which  were,  for  many 
years,  engaged  in  the  peaceful  but  highly 
lucrative  trade  which  made  the  Providence 
firm  not  only  famous,  but  extremely 

It  is  not  far  fetched  to  say  that  the  com¬ 
merce  brought  to  Providence  by  the  ships 
built  and  sent  out  by  John  Brown  and 
Thomas  Poynton  Ives  laid  the  foundation 



for  the  building  of  our  great  city  of  today. 
Shipping,  always  fascinating  to  the  layman, 
the  landlubber,  and  perhaps  even  more  so 
to  the  sailor,  has  played  a  great  part  in  the 
development  of  many  cities,  and  the  same 
has  been  true  of  the  port  of  Providence. 
The  shipping  interests  have  ever  been  con¬ 

nected  with  the  other  prominent  organiza¬ 
tions  throughout  the  growing  town  and, 
later,  the  city.  And  of  all  the  Providence 
shipping  firms,  whose  members  were  out¬ 
standing  not  only  in  their  chosen  profession 
but  in  the  many  other  walks  of  life,  the  firm 
of  Brown  &  Ives  was  foremost. 


WHAT  follows  must  necessarily  be  only 
the  thinnest  outline  of  an  unusually 
adventurous  and  strange  career.  The  full 
story  of  this  native  of  Cranston  is  con¬ 
tained  in  his  own  narrative,  under  the  title 
of  “The  Life  and  Adventures  of  Israel  R. 
Potter,”  and  is  oddly  similar  to  much  of 
Dickens’  work.  It  is  as  exciting  and  stirring 
as  many  a  modem  work  of  fiction  and  cer¬ 
tainly  as  substantial.  But  here  is  the  story 
in  brief. 

Israel  R.  Potter  was  born  in  Cranston 
on  August  1,  1744,  living  with  his  parents 
until  he  was  eighteen.  At  that  age  he  un¬ 
happily  fell  in  love  with  the  daughter  of 
a  neighbor,  beginning  an  affair  to  which  his 
parents  brought  a  quick  ending.  Dis¬ 
gruntled  and  sadly  disappointed,  the  young 
man  decided  to  leave  his  home.  He  took 
advantage  of  his  family’s  attendance  at 
church  on  the  following  Sabbath  to  hide 
his  few  belongings  and  some  provisions  in 
a  nearby  wood,  and  then  in  the  quiet  of  the 
night  slipped  out  the  door  and  was  gone. 
His  mixed  fortunes  began  the  next  day 
when  he  reached  Hartford,  Connecticut,  and 
obtained  work  with  a  farmer  for  $6  per 
month.  A  month  of  this  and  we  find  him 
going  north  to  Springfield,  but  not  stopping 
there  because  of  an  offer  from  a  stranger 
to  make  a  trip  up  the  Connecticut  River 
into  the  Cahos  country.  The  trip,  which 
was  by  canoe,  was  one  of  several  weeks 
duration,  ending  at  Lebanon,  New  Hamp¬ 
shire.  Potter  had  difficulty  in  obtaining 
his  pay,  though  it  was  only  $4,  but  once 
having  received  it  he  set  out  for  New  York. 

Here  he  contracted  for  200  acres  of  land 
in  return  for  four  months  work,  but  at  the 
end  of  the  stipulated  period  his  employer 
refused  to  make  out  a  deed.  Potter  secured 
a  position  for  part  of  the  ensuing  winter 

with  a  company  of  surveyors;  and  when 
they  had  finished  their  work  and  had  gone 
back  to  New  Hampshire,  he  used  his  wages 
to  outfit  himself  with  a  gun  and  ammuni¬ 
tion  and  obtained  enough  skins  by  hunting 
to  enable  him  to  buy  a  100  acre  tract  of 
land  in  the  spring.  He  immediately  built 
a  log  cabin  and  set  about  clearing  his  land. 
Summers  he  worked  his  farm;  winters  he 
returned  to  hunting  and  trapping;  but  after 
two  years  he  sold  out  to  the  original  owner 
and  headed  northward  into  Canada  to  en¬ 
gage  in  fur  trade  with  the  Indians.  In  this 
he  was  so  successful  that  he  decided  to 
return  to  his  parents. 

His  family  greeted  him  like  a  prodigal 
son;  but  when  they  noticed  that  his  attach¬ 
ment  for  his  former  sweetheart,  not  only 
had  not  diminished  but  increased,  they  be¬ 
came  as  disagreeable  as  before.  Potter,  dis¬ 
appointed,  determined  to  leave  again,  this 
time  to  try  the  life  of  a  sailor. 

At  Providence  he  joined  the  crew  of  a 
sloop  hound  for  Grenada.  On  the  fifteenth 
day  out  this  ill-fated  vessel  caught  on  fire, 
and  the  crew  of  eight  had  to  take  to  a  leaky 
longboat,  scarcely  having  time  to  throw 
into  it  some  food  and  water.  Then,  with 
every  reason  to  believe  that  they  would  not 
be  able  to  exist  until  they  could  reach  land, 
Fate  smiled  on  them  in  the  form  of  a  Dutch 
ship,  which  picked  them  up  on  their  second 
day  of  rowing.  Meeting  an  American  vessel 
bound  for  Antigua,  the  rescued  men  left  the 
hospitality  of  the  Dutchmen  and  trans¬ 
ferred  to  her.  Shortly  after  arriving  at 
Antigua,  Potter  got  a  berth  on  an  American 
brig  bound  for  Porto  Rico  and  from  there 
went  to  Eustacia.  Here  he  joined  the  crew 
of  a  Nantucket  whaling  ship,  sharing  with 
them  a  short  but  highly  successful  voyage 
and  finally  returning  to  Nantucket.  This 

i  In  I 

The  Olneyville  Branch  of  the  Providence  Institution  for  Savings, 
1917-21  Westminster  Street,  Olneyville  Square. 

Erected  1927. 



gave  him  an  opportunity  to  go  again  to 
Providence  and  Cranston  and  look  up  his 
family  and  friends.  The  reception  he  re¬ 
ceived  could  hardly  have  been  cordial  for 
within  two  months  he  had  returned  to  Nan¬ 
tucket  and  signed  on  for  a  three  years  whal¬ 
ing  voyage  into  the  South  Seas.  This  trip 
seemed  to  have  cured  his  sea  fever,  for  after 
all  the  hardship  and  toil  of  this  voyage  he 
returned  to  Cranston  with  the  resolve  to 
become  a  landsman  again. 

Potter  once  more  began  the  life  of  a 
farmer  in  the  town  of  Coventry,  working 
there  for  several  months.  It  was  then  the 
year  1774  and  the  first  storm  clouds  of  the 
impending  Revolution  were  beginning  to 
appear,  black  and  ominous.  Companies  of 
minute  men  were  being  formed  everywhere 
and  he  joined  one  in  Coventry.  The  follow¬ 
ing  spring  brought  the  news  of  Concord 
and  Lexington,  and  the  resulting  march  of 
all  outlying  companies  of  militia  to  Boston 
where  they  joined  in  one  large  encampment 
at  Charleston.  Potter’s  company  was 
among  these,  and  he  was  fated  to  take  part 
in  all  the  fighting  at  Bunker  Hill.  Three 
times  was  he  wounded,  once  by  cutlass  and 
twice  by  musket  balls. 

Washington  had  arrived  to  take  charge 
of  the  American  forces  while  Potter  was  in 
the  hospital,  and  when  the  latter  got  out 
he  was  offered  an  opportunity  to  be  one  of 
the  crew  of  an  armed  brigantine  that  Wash¬ 
ington  was  sending  down  Boston  Bay  to 
intercept  enemy  supply  ships.  Unfortu¬ 
nately  the  brigantine  met  more  than  her 
match  and  was  captured.  Her  whole  crew 
was  taken  back  to  Boston,  transferred  to  a 
British  frigate,  and  sent  to  England.  Potter 
did  his  best  to  instigate  a  mutiny  among 
the  American  prisoners,  so  that  they  might 
seize  the  ship,  but  a  traitor  revealed  the 
plot,  and  Potter  spent  the  rest  of  the  voyage 
in  irons.  Upon  his  arrival  in  Portsmouth, 
England,  he  escaped  court  martial,  because 
his  betrayer  turned  out  to  be  a  British  de¬ 

The  prisoners  were  sent  to  the  marine  hos¬ 
pital,  where  half  of  them  died  of  small  pox, 
but  Potter,  and  the  rest  who  survived,  were 
sent  aboard  a  prison  ship.  For  weeks  he 
sought  an  opportunity  to  escape,  before  a 
chance  came  his  way.  He  was  sent  ashore 
as  one  of  a  crew  of  a  small  barge.  While 
the  others  were  drinking  ale  in  a  nearby 

inn,  Potter  took  to  his  heels  and  escaped. 
Ten  miles  away,  he  was  hailed  by  a  naval 
officer  who  inquired  after  his  ship.  Upon 
Potter’s  request  that  he  should  mind  his 
own  business,  the  officer  set  after  him.  Run¬ 
ning  a  second  time,  Potter  might  have 
escaped,  but  the  officer  began  to  cry  “Stop 
thief!”  adding  such  a  pack  of  shopkeepers 
and  idlers  to  the  chase  that  the  American 
was  soon  run  down. 

A  prisoner  again,  Potter  was  taken  to  an 
inn  and  placed  in  the  custody  of  two 
soldiers.  Using  his  wits,  he  took  advantage 
of  the  officer’s  command  that  he  should  be 
given  plenty  of  drink  and  treated  everyone 
royally,  getting  his  two  guardians  in  a  very 
advanced  stage  of  reeling  by  the  time  they 
took  him  to  his  room.  He  was  handcuffed, 
yet  again  he  made  a  bold  plan  for  an  escape. 
Waiting  until  the  tavern  was  quiet,  he  re¬ 
quested  to  be  taken  outdoors  for  a  moment. 
His  guards  acquiesced,  yet  no  sooner  had 
they  opened  the  outer  door,  than  Potter 
tripped  them  both  up  and  slipped  into  the 
darkness  of  the  courtyard.  Here  he  found 
a  twelve  foot  wall  to  scale,  and  only  suc¬ 
ceeded  in  getting  over  it  by  means  of  a  tree, 
from  which  he  jumped.  Later  he  got  rid 
of  his  handcuffs. 

The  rest  of  the  tale  of  this  intrepid 
Yankee  is  long  indeed  and  we  can  only 
skim  rapidly  over  it.  He  was  captured  again, 
but  again  escaped,  this  time  out  of  a  Round 
House  Prison.  The  next  months  were  ter¬ 
rible.  He  was  hounded  from  one  place  to 
another,  rarely  meeting  a  friendly  person. 
Yet  his  cleverness  at  disguise  and  quick 
escapes  kept  him  free.  For  a  time  he  even 
worked  in  the  gardens  of  the  king,  being 
found  out  and  accosted  by  this  supreme 
dignitary  himself.  It  is  to  the  credit  of 
George  the  III  that  he  did  not  add  to  the 
troubles  of  Potter. 

At  one  time  Potter  was  sent  for  by  some 
English  squires  who  were  friendly  to  Amer¬ 
ica  and  entrusted  with  letters  to  Benjamin 
Franklin  in  Paris.  Several  times  he  made 
the  journey  between  France  and  England, 
and  then  on  the  last,  when  Franklin  was  to 
have  secured  him  a  passage  to  America,  all 
intercourse  between  France  and  England 
ceased,  and  Potter  was  left  in  the  latter 
country,  the  victim  of  ill  fortune.  He  re¬ 
turned  to  his  furtive  and  shifting  life  at  all 
sorts  of  trades,  but  finally,  being  no  longer 



molested  and  believing  that  he  should  never 
see  America  again,  he  married.  This  step 
only  marked  out  for  him  years  of  bitter 
struggle  and  the  most  abject  poverty. 

When  the  Revolution  was  over,  he  could 
not  take  his  family  to  America,  because 
of  lack  of  sufficient  funds,  and  with  the  re¬ 
turn  of  the  English  troops  with  all  their 
men  entering  the  ranks  of  labor  again,  he 
had  difficulty  in  keeping  his  family  in  food 
and  clothing.  His  children  were  ill;  debts 
caused  his  imprisonment;  food  was  so 
scarce  and  work  more  so;  all  his  furniture 
was  confiscated ;  all  his  children  except  one 
died;  and  finally  his  wife,  in  1817,  suc¬ 
cumbed  to  the  slow  starvation  to  which  long 

fasts  subjected  them  all.  The  remaining 
boy  aided  his  father  as  much  as  possible, 
selling  matches,  sweeping  crosswalks,  doing 
anything  for  many  years.  Finally,  in  1823, 
after  pleading  with  the  American  Consul, 
both  father  and  son  got  passages  to  America, 
the  latter  going  first  because  the  former 
was  too  sick  to  travel.  Reunited  in  Boston, 
they  went  to  Providence  and  Cranston  to 
look  up  the  Potter  family,  but  found  they 
had  long  since  departed  for  other  regions. 
Potter  was  79  years  old  then.  In  despera¬ 
tion  he  applied  to  Congress  for  a  pension, 
telling  this  story,  but  was  refused.  And 
there  our  own  story  ends,  a  bitter  tale  for  all 
its  excitement,  but  a  true  one. 


Old  prisons,  dungeons,  and  convict  ships 
always  arouse  the  curiosity  of  the 
average  individual.  There  seems  to  be  an 
inordinate  fascination  inherent  in  old  cells, 
chains  and  handcuffs,  and  instruments  of 
torture.  Perhaps  it  is  because  people  can¬ 
not  resist  making  an  examination  of  the 
very  things  they  most  fear;  perhaps,  be¬ 
cause  there  is  a  sort  of  morbid  pleasure  to 
be  derived  from  a  shudder.  But  the  fact 
remains  that  anything  connected  with  crime 
— even  the  name  itself — has  the  lure  of  the 
mysterious  and  exciting  for  the  majority 
of  righteous  and  God-fearing  people.  And, 
for  this  reason,  a  brief  resume  of  the  old 
prisons  in  Rhode  Island  should  not  be 
without  its  share  of  interest. 

Almost  as  soon  as  any  newly-established 
settlement  needs  a  church  and  a  meeting 
house,  it  seems  to  need  a  prison.  And  such 
was  the  case  with  Portsmouth,  for  in  the 
very  same  year,  1638,  in  which  the  little 
group,  headed  by  Coddington  and  Clarke, 
arrived  from  Boston  to  found  the  town  on 
the  Island  of  Aquidneck,  the  elders  ordered 
that  a  house  “for  a  Prison,  containing 
twelve  foote  in  length  and  tenn  foote  in 
breadth  and  tenn  foote  studd,  be  forthwith 
built  of  sufficient  strength.”  William  Bren- 
ton  was  made  overseer  and  Henry  Bull 
keeper.  For  a  while,  after  the  founding  of 
Newport  in  the  next  year,  this  first  prison 

served  both  towns,  hut  Newport  soon  found 
it  necessary  to  build  one  of  its  own. 

Meanwhile,  in  1649,  the  separate  Colony 
of  the  Providence  Plantations  issued  a  gen¬ 
eral  court  order  as  follows:  “each  town 
within  this  collonie  shall  provide  a  prison 
with  a  chimneye  and  necessaries  for  any 
offender  that  shall  be  committed,  within 
nine  months.”  The  order  was  amended  to 
state  that  Warwick  should  have  a  prison 
and  Providence  and  Portsmouth  simply 
cages,  yet,  oddly,  even  this  was  not  ever  car¬ 
ried  out.  The  Newport  prison  had  to  serve 
as  the  final  place  of  incarceration  for  offen¬ 
ders  arrested  throughout  both  Colonies. 

As  a  matter  of  fact,  Newport  really  was 
the  logical  situation  for  a  prison,  for  this 
seaport  was  the  leading  town  of  all  Rhode 
Island  and  the  Providence  Plantations. 
With  its  large  commerce,  bringing  seamen 
from  all  countries,  among  them  pirates  and 
foreign  privateersmen,  its  normal  percent¬ 
age  of  criminals  was  naturally  increased, 
and  its  need  of  a  handy  prison  more  press¬ 
ing.  But  the  old  Newport  Prison  was  not 
capable  of  holding  the  offenders  sent  down 
by  all  the  Colony  towns.  Consequently, 
once  these  latter  decided  not  to  build  pris¬ 
ons  of  their  own,  they  contributed  toward 
the  building  of  a  new  prison  for  Newport — 
Providence  giving  £30,  Warwick  £20,  and 
Portsmouth  £10. 



But  none  of  these  early  jails  could  have 
been  very  stoutly  constructed.  Practically 
every  decade  found  Newport  building  a 
new  one.  Or,  perhaps  it  was  that  the  town 
only  built  to  supply  a  present  need,  think¬ 
ing  the  number  of  offenders  against  the  law 
would  not  grow  in  proportion  with  the  pop¬ 
ulation.  If  there  was  such  a  supposition,  its 
foolishness  rapidly  became  apparent.  Thus, 
Newport  had  a  new  jail  in  1702,  built  from 
a  direct  appropriation  of  the  General  As¬ 
sembly,  and  then  another  in  1717,  after 
money  had  been  raised  through  an  issuance 
of  many  pounds  of  paper  currency. 

All  these  jails  were  actually  insecure 
places  in  which  to  confine  dangerous  crim¬ 
inals.  They  were  built  of  wood  and  did  not 
offer  any  positive  protection  from  raids 
from  without.  Any  really  desperate  prisoner 
could  have  found  a  way  to  escape  without 
great  difficulty.  The  King’s  County  Jail,  at 
Little  Rest  Hill,  was  broken  into,  in  1770, by 
a  group  of  individuals  in  disguise,  and  five 
prisoners  were  liberated.  However,  in 
many  cases,  violence  of  such  sort  was  not 
necessary.  Jailers  were  only  human  and 
could  be  occasionally  persuaded  to  leave  a 
door  unbarred  or  ajar.  Sometimes  we  can¬ 
not  blame  them,  for  if  they  possessed  any 
humanity  at  all,  they  could  not  always  see 
men  falling  sick  and  dying  in  the  dismal, 
unsanitary  cells  which  most  of  the  prisons 
contained  without  doing  something  to  aid 

With  the  laying  out  of  counties,  it  be¬ 
came  the  custom  to  build  jails  in  conjunc¬ 
tion  with  court-houses.  Major  William 
Smith  built  a  combination  building  of  this 
type  in  Providence,  in  1731,  but  two  years 
later  it  was  sold  by  the  town.  In  1772, 
Newport  built  a  substantial  prison  of  brick. 
It  served  as  the  county  jail  and  was  located 
on  Marlborough  Street.  During  the  Revo¬ 
lution,  when  the  British  held  Newport,  they 
used  this  jail  as  a  place  for  the  imprison¬ 
ment  of  captured  colonists. 

In  1778,  Newport  no  longer  remained  the 
principal  place  of  incarceration  for  Provi¬ 
dence  became  its  successor.  After  the  Rev¬ 
olution,  when  Rhode  Island  became  part  of 
the  Federal  Union,  county  jails  were  used 
for  the  imprisonment  of  offenders  against 
national  laws,  the  Federal  government 
allowing  fifty  cents  per  month  in  payment 

for  the  cost  of  keeping  each  prisoner.  At 
that  rate,  unless  the  Colony  itself  contrib¬ 
uted  toward  the  care  of  such  criminals, 
their  lot  must  have  been  terrible. 

But  now  let  us  look  back  and  see  what 
some  of  the  punishments  were  which  were 
meted  out  to  transgressors  against  the  law. 
As  in  other  New  England  Colonies,  the 
stocks  and  pillories  were  common  in  all 
Rhode  Island  towns,  and  served  as  a  means 
of  punishment  for  minor  misdemeanors. 
Whipping  took  care  of  offenses  of  a  more 
serious  nature,  the  victims  being  stripped 
to  the  waist,  chained  to  a  post  or  tree  by  the 
hands,  and  lashed  across  the  back  with  un¬ 
braided  and  knotted  tar  ropes.  This  bar¬ 
barous  method  was  sometimes  used  in  pun¬ 
ishing  women  as  well  as  men.  Branding 
was  another  form  of  punishment  of  the 
more  brutal  order,  and  then,  of  course, 
there  were  the  regular  fines  and  imprison¬ 
ments,  of  a  severity  equal  to  the  crime  com¬ 
mitted.  Gradually,  the  more  cruel  of  these 
punishments  passed  into  disuse,  and  only 
fines  and  imprisonments  have  continued  to 
the  present  day.  . 

As  far  as  the  death  penalty  was  con¬ 
cerned,  the  Code  of  1647  ordered  it  as  the 
punishment  for  “high  treason,  murder, 
petit  treason,  manslaughter,  burglary,  rob¬ 
bery,  arson,  rape,  and  crimes  against  na¬ 
ture.”  In  1718,  in  a  revision  of  this  code, 
arson  and  rape  were  omitted  from  the  list, 
but,  in  1797  they  were  again  added.  In  the 
latter  year  high  and  petit  treason  and 
crimes  against  nature  were  excluded. 
Finally,  in  1838,  imprisonment  was  substi¬ 
tuted  for  all  crimes  except  murder  and 
arson,  and  the  sentence  given  for  the  latter 
was  allowed  to  be  the  option  of  the  court. 
However,  in  1852,  all  capital  punishment 
was  abolished,  except  in  the  case  of  a  mur¬ 
der  committed  by  a  person  already  sen¬ 
tenced  to  life  imprisonment. 

Yet,  given  his  choice,  many  a  prisoner 
would  have  chosen  death  in  preference  to 
life  imprisonment  in  one  of  the  typical  old 
jails.  They  were  in  a  wretched  condition, 
unsanitary,  breeding  places  for  disease, 
without  much  heat,  if  any,  and  without  any 
place  where  a  prisoner  could  work  and  so 
keep  from  going  crazy.  This  enforced  idle¬ 
ness  was  the  most  horrible  part  of  the  pun¬ 
ishment,  for,  left  to  brood,  a  prisoner  might 



quickly  become  insane.  But  an  ameliora¬ 
tion  of  such  atrocious  conditions  was  under 

In  1794,  agitation  was  begun  for  a  State 
Penitentiary  in  Providence,  but  the  result 
was  only  another  County  Jail.  However,  in 
1838,  a  State  Prison  was  erected  at  Great 
Point  in  Providence  (about  where  the  State 
Normal  School  now  stands)  at  a  cost  of 
$51,501,  or  about  $1300  per  cell.  It  was  an 
improvement  in  size  only.  Its  great  gran¬ 
ite  blocks,  clamped  together  with  iron,  col¬ 
lected  moisture,  which  in  the  winter  turned 
to  frost  and  ice  on  the  insides  of  the  cells. 
These  were  narrow,  like  the  corridors, 
poorly  ventilated  and  lighted,  and  the  most 
wretched  places  imaginable.  But  the  prison 
had  been  built  and  it  had  to  serve,  even  if 
it  was  a  disgrace.  A  new  County  Jail  was 
joined  to  the  structure  in  1838. 

A  commission  of  overseers  was  appointed 
to  look  after  the  upkeep  of  the  prison  and 

it  was  due  to  these  men  that  we  find  a  long- 
needed  workshop  proposed  and  then  built. 
Giving  the  prisoners  something  to  do  was 
the  greatest  improvement  in  two  centuries, 
and  their  labor  aided  in  the  upkeep  of  the 
prison.  A  new  wing  was  aded  in  1851,  con¬ 
taining  88  cells.  Six  years  later  a  library 
was  established  and  then  another  wing  with 
a  chapel  and  new  workshop.  It  was  a  seri¬ 
ous  attempt  to  try  to  educate  and  reform 
the  prisoners,  and  good  results  were  ob¬ 

In  1869,  a  state  farm,  with  a  work-house, 
asylum  for  the  insane,  and  an  alms-house, 
was  established  in  Cranston,  on  the  Pontiac 
Road,  and  finally,  after  long  argument,  a 
new  State  Prison  was  built  within  the  limits 
of  this  farm  in  1874,  and  it  is  this  which 
remains  in  full  use  today.  A  long  road  has 
been  travelled  since  the  first  prisons  and 
cages  were  established  within  Rhode  Island, 
but  even  now  there  is  yet  a  long  way  to  go. 


This  little  tale  of  the  trials  and  tribula¬ 
tions  of  love  in  18th  century  Rhode  Isl¬ 
and  would  really  fit  easily  into  any  age, 
but  here  it  is,  gleaned  from  the  private  cor¬ 
respondence  of  William  Palfrey  of  Boston 
and  Moses  Brown,  that  astute  and  diplo¬ 
matic  Quaker,  the  youngest  of  the  “Four 
Brown  Brothers”  of  Providence.  The  lady 
in  the  case  was  Mistress  Polly  Olney,  the 
charming  and  strangely  facetious  daughter 
of  Joseph  Olney,  a  favorite  innkeeper  of 
Providence.  It  was  at  his  tavern  that  the 
youth  of  the  town  used  to  gather  in  the 
ominous  days  preceding  the  War  for  Inde¬ 
pendence,  and  in  the  yard  of  this  hostelry 
grew  the  elm  which  was  christened  “The 
Liberty  Tree,”  a  name  by  which  the  tavern 
itself  was  later  known. 

Of  Moses  Brown,  one  of  the  noted  char¬ 
acters  in  Rhode  Island  history,  little  needs 
to  be  said,  but  perhaps  William  Palfrey 
requires  further  qualification.  He  was  born 
in  Boston,  in  1741,  being  three  years  older 
than  Mistress  Polly.  His  grandson,  an  emi¬ 
nent  New  England  historian,  has  described 
him  as  “an  agreeable  person  with  a  frank 
and  generous  expression  of  countenance, 

great  gayety  and  heartiness  of  disposition, 
a  fund  of  anecdote,  a  seasoning  of  original 
wit,  and  a  somewhat  sedulous  attention  to 
dress  as  well  as  to  manners,  advantages 
which,  added  to  his  perfectly  correct  habits, 
his  known  industry  and  trustworthiness, 
and  his  forwardness  and  influence  in  the 
political  circles  of  his  equals  in  age,  in¬ 
troduced  him  favorably  to  the  good  society 
of  the  town.”  In  1761,  the  year  in  which 
this  romance  began,  Palfrey  was  employed 
as  a  clerk  in  the  establishment  of  Nathaniel 
Wheelright  who  was  second  only  to  the 
elder  Hancock  as  a  merchant  of  Boston. 

Palfrey  came  to  Providence  on  business 
in  1761,  being  entertained,  while  in  the 
town,  by  Moses  Brown  who  introduced  him 
to  a  number  of  pretty  girls.  Among  them 
was  Polly  Olney  who  seems  to  have  made 
a  swift  conquest  of  his  heart.  In  his  first 
letter  from  Boston  to  Moses  Brown,  in 
which  he  thanked  the  latter  for  his  past 
hospitality,  he  only  wished  to  be  remem¬ 
bered  to  “Miss  Sally  &  the  other  ladies,” 
but,  in  a  later  letter  of  March  26,  1761, 
he  took  the  Quaker  into  his  full  confidence 
regarding  his  passion  for  Miss  Polly,  re¬ 
questing  him  to  convey  his  “complements” 



to  “the  dear  Polly”  toward  whom  he  had 
feelings  which  he  was  quite  unable  “to 

Letters  were  constantly  exchanged  be¬ 
tween  the  two  friends  as  the  courtship  of 
Mistress  Polly  gained  headway,  and  Moses 
Brown  became  the  trusted  spokesman  and 
aide  of  the  Boston  lover  who  was  forced 
to  do  most  of  his  wooing  by  post  and  by 
proxy.  In  April,  Palfrey  wrote  again  to 
his  friend,  saying  “Inclos’d  you  have  a 

Letter  for  P - y  which  I  doubt  not  you 

will  be  kind  Enough  to  deliver  her  and  in 
as  private  a  manner  as  the  Nature  of  the 
thing  will  admit  of.  I  must  Confess  a  Cor¬ 
respondence  with  the  fair  Sex  is  vastly 
agreeable  to  me.  Especially  with  the  one 
who  I  have  so  great  a  Regard  for  as  I  have 

for  P - y  &  am  sorry  that  I  was  oblig’d 

to  leave  Providence  before  I  had  an  op¬ 
portunity  to  settle  the  affair  with  her,  as  I 
was  depriv’d  of  that  pleasure  by  her  being 
gone  to  one  of  the  Neighbours  a  Visiting, 
however  hope  I  shall  have  another  oppor¬ 
tunity  soon.”  It  is  amusing  to  note  that  in 
this  letter  he  also  requests  that  its  bearer, 
a  Dr.  Jackson,  (“who  is  a  friend  &  Mason”) 
be  introduced  “Especially  to  the  Females.” 
This  was  the  first  letter  to  Polly. 

However,  by  August  of  1761,  trouble 
had  begun  to  arise.  Palfrey  had  paid  a  visit 
to  Providence,  in  which  he  had  missed  see¬ 
ing  either  Polly  or  Moses  Brown,  but  had 
heard  a  rumor  that  the  former  was  soon 
to  be  married  to  a  Mr.  Bowers  of  Swansea. 
Subject  to  the  usual  credulity  and  jealousy 
of  a  lover,  he  had  inquired  further  concern¬ 
ing  this  disturbing  report,  only  becoming 
more  upset  when  informed  that  it  was  not 
Mr.  Bowers  but  Moses  Brown  himself  who 
was  courting  Polly.  Upon  his  return  to 
Boston  Palfrey  wrote  at  once  to  Moses 
Brown,  demanding  an  immediate  explana¬ 
tion  of  the  rumor  and  saying,  somewhat 
spiritedly,  that  he  was  glad  that  he  had 
“not  as  yet  advanced  so  far  but  that  he  could 
Retreat  with  Honour.” 

Moses  Brown  answered  quickly,  express¬ 
ing  great  surprise  at  Palfrey’s  implied  ac¬ 
cusation.  He  said  that  there  was  nothing  in 
the  rumor  concerning  Polly  and  Mr.  Bowers. 
Polly  had  merely  gone  to  Swansea  for  a 
visit  and  returned  in  the  company  of  Dr. 
Bowers,  who  had  then  stayed  in  Providence 
for  several  days  both  at  the  Olney’s  Tavern 

and  at  the  Brown  Homestead.  But,  after 
admitting  it  to  be  true  that  his  friends  had 
accused  him,  (Moses  Brown)  of  courting 
Polly  (although  she  was  just  an  intimate 
friend) ,  the  Quaker  cleverly  turned  the 
tables  by  asking  Palfrey  to  explain  a  ru¬ 
mor  that  had  it  that  he,  Palfrey,  was  paying 
addresses  to  “a  young  Lady  in  Boston,” 
a  rumor  which  (if  true)  would  make  him 
think  both  himself  and  Polly  “Very  Un- 
genteely  Us’d.”  With  this  he  neatly  turned 
the  tables  on  his  hot-headed  accuser. 

Upon  receipt  of  the  letter  from  Moses 
Brown,  Palfrey  just  briefly  acknowledged 
it,  for  he  had  to  go  to  New  York  on  busi¬ 
ness,  but  a  week  later  he  wrote  more  fully, 
apologizing  for  accusing  his  friend  of 
duplicity  and  railing  heartily  against  the 
evils  of  all  rumors.  He  said  that  inasmuch 
as  he  was  a  close  friend  of  a  certain  Cazneau 
and  had  been  often  invited  to  the  latter’s 
home,  he  had  formed  a  perfectly  nat¬ 
ural  acquaintanceship  with  Cazneau’s  sis¬ 
ters  and  had  occasionally  taken  one  of  them 
out  walking  or  carried  “her  and  her  sisters 
with  some  other  Ladies  to  a  play.”  He  called 
Boston  a  “Tattling  Town”  (quite  appro¬ 
priately)  and  hoped  his  explanation  would 
clear  up  the  matter,  preserving  both  his 
friendship  with  Moses  Brown  and  his  own 
personal  honor.  And,  in  closing,  he  spoke 
of  j  ourneying  to  Providence  very  shortly  in 
order  to  see  Polly. 

After  this  letter  Moses  Brown  heard  noth¬ 
ing  further  from  Palfrey  until  February  of 
1762.  He  then  received  a  long  letter  giving 
a  full  report  of  all  that  had  happened  be¬ 
tween  the  Bostonian  and  his  sweetheart, 
Polly.  The  latter  had  been  at  Newport,  and 
Palfrey  had  sent  her  a  letter  in  care  of 
Moses  Brown,  in  which  he  proposed  to  her 
fully,  explaining  that  he  could  not  come  to 
Providence  again  before  the  end  of  the  year 
(1761)  and  asking  her  to  answer  by  post. 
No  answer  came,  however,  and  Palfrey, 
greatly  worried,  came  to  Rhode  Island  to 
seek  her  out.  He  found  Polly  at  Newport 
but  could  not  get  an  opportunity  to  talk  to 
her  privately.  “Something  or  other”  was 
always  happening.  When  Polly  returned  to 
Providence,  Palfrey  came  back  with  her 
still  hoping  for  a  chance  to  see  her  alone. 
Finally,  when  becoming  desperate  and 
thinking  he  might  have  to  go  back  to  Boston 
leaving  the  matter  unsettled,  he  conceived  a 



clever  plan.  With  the  help  of  Polly’s  broth¬ 
er,  Jo.,  he  succeeded  in  getting  a  Miss  Paget 
to  invite  Polly  and  himself  to  her  house  and 
then  leave  them  alone.  This  scheme,  he 
says,  “took.”  However,  when  he  asked  Polly 
if  she  had  received  his  letter  and  what  she 
thought  of  it,  her  answer  was  very  vague. 
Pressing  the  case,  he  received  a  very  definite 
rejection,  coolly  given,  with  the  additional 
admonition  “to  think  no  more  of  her.” 

Thinking  her  answer  final,  Palfrey  re¬ 
turned  to  Boston,  deeply  humiliated,  and 
never  wrote  to  her  after  that.  But,  Polly  had 
since  come  to  Boston,  and  Palfrey  had  met 
her  at  a  ball.  However,  to  him  she  still 
seemed  “Exceeding  Shy  &  behav’d  with  an 
Air  of  Distant  Reserve.”  He  treated  her  well 
and  still  regarded  her  highly,  expressing 
every  wish  for  her  future  happiness.  In 
closing  this  long  letter,  he  said  that,  al¬ 
though  rumors  were  about  that  he  had  de¬ 
ceived  Polly  during  the  whole  affair,  he  had 
always  dealt  with  her  honorably,  and,  if  in 
doubt,  Moses  Brown  might  show  this  letter 
to  her. 

Moses  Brown,  to  his  credit,  believed  his 
friend’s  explanation  implicitly  without  hav¬ 
ing  any  further  assurance  from  Polly,  and 
wrote  that  he  was  well  satisfied  with  the  ex¬ 
planation.  Although  Palfrey  had  since  en¬ 
tered  into  partnership  with  his  friend  Caz- 
neau  and  had  begun  to  pay  serious  court  to 
one  of  his  sisters,  he  was  still  not  quite  im¬ 
mune  to  the  charms  of  Polly,  for  in  April 
he  wrote  excitedly  to  Moses  Brown  that 
“Polly  is  this  minute  gone  out  of  the  Store 
.  .  .  I  think  I  could  perceive  a  visible  al¬ 
teration  in  her  countenance  &  bahavior  for 
the  better.  She  did  not  seem  to  be  quite  so 
much  upon  the  Reserve  as  usual.”  Later, 

one  of  Moses  Brown’s  letters  to  Palfrey  con¬ 
cerning  Polly  fell  into  Miss  Cazneau’s 
hands  and  was  opened  and  read  by  her  with 
true  feminine  curiosity.  Palfrey  nearly  lost 
his  second  sweetheart  as  a  result,  but  the 
matter  blew  over.  The  final  letter  to  Moses 
Brown,  written  late  in  April,  was  a  real  ex¬ 
planation  and  showed  Polly  to  be  a  rather 
foolish  coquette.  Palfrey  wrote  “Polly  told 
my  friend  Flagg  Last  Evening  that  she 
thought  it  would  have  looked  odd  for  a 
young  Lady  to  say  Yes  so  soon  and  that  if 
there  was  any  misunderstanding  between  us, 
she  was  very  sorry  for  it.”  Foolish  Polly! 
She  revealed  herself  too  late,  for  Palfrey 
was  truly  a  man  of  honor  and  held  to  his 
engagement  to  Miss  Cazneau.  He  did,  how¬ 
ever,  remark  further  on  in  his  letter  to 
Moses  Brown,  “I  am  sorry  I  was  not  ac¬ 
quainted  with  her  temper  and  disposition 
before,  as  it  would  have  prevented  all  that 
has  happened.” 

Yet  Polly  did  not  go  to  Boston  in  vain, 
for,  in  1764,  the  Providence  Gazette  and 
Country  Journal  announced  her  marriage 
to  a  Mr.  Thomas  Greene  of  Boston,  de¬ 
scribing  her  as  a  “young  lady”  of  “real 
merit”  and  one  fitted  “to  grace  the  con¬ 
nubial  state  and  perpetuate  its  felicity.” 
Moses  Brown,  too  was  married  that  year  to 
his  cousin,  Nancy  Brown,  but  it  was  a  year 
afterwards  that  Palfrey  married  Miss  Caz¬ 
neau.  During  the  Revolution  he  was  a  mem¬ 
ber  of  Washington’s  personal  staff,  the  Pay¬ 
master  -  General  of  all  the  Continental 
Troops,  resigning  finally  to  become  Consul- 
General  to  France.  In  1780  he  sailed  out  of 
Delaware  Bay,  on  the  “Shillala”  to  fill  his 
last  appointment,  but  neither  he  nor  the 
ship  were  ever  heard  of  again. 


IT  is  strange  that  a  sparsely-settled  area 
of  old-time  Rhode  Island  farming  coun¬ 
try  should  have  supported  a  good  many 
silversmiths,  but  fully  a  half-dozen  or  more 
followers  of  this  noble  and  time-honored 
craft  found  they  could  make  at  least  a 
partial  living  in  the  region  about  the  vil¬ 
lage  of  Little  Rest  in  South  Kingston. 
Newport  and  Providence  were  nominally 
the  places  for  this  type  of  craftsmen,  yet 

the  silversmiths  of  Little  Rest  achieved 
quite  a  portion  of  fame  for  themselves. 
John  Waite,  Joseph  Perkins,  Gideon  Casey, 
Nathaniel  Helme — all  these  were  well 
known  in  18th  century  Rhode  Island,  but 
the  master  craftsman  of  them  all  was 
Samuel  Casey.  And  the  tale  of  his  life  as 
told  by  William  Davis  Miller  is  exception¬ 
ally  interesting.  It  was  he  who  was  said  to 
be  the  grandson  of  the  sole  survivor  of  the 




Irish  Massacre  in  Ulster  County,  Ireland, 
in  1641.  This  lucky  survivor,  Thomas 
Casey,  came  to  Newport  in  about  1658;  and 
it  was  in  Newport  that  the  grandson,  Sam¬ 
uel,  was  born,  although  the  date  of  1724 
(like  many  other  things  about  his  colorful 
career)  is  doubtful. 

At  any  rate  we  find  the  father,  Samuel 
Casey,  Senior,  moved  and  settled  in  North 
Kingston  in  1734.  Then,  sixteen  years  later, 
we  find  Samuel  Casey,  Junior,  named  in  the 
deed  to  a  piece  of  land  which  he  had  pur¬ 
chased  from  Caleb  Gardiner  in  Exeter  as 
“Samuel  Casey,  Junr.  of  Exeter — silver¬ 
smith.”  This  was  in  1750,  and  what  had 
happened  previously  in  Samuel  Casey’s 
twenty-six  years  of  growing  up  we  do  not 
know.  Presumably  he  had  learned  his  trade 
in  Newport  for  there  there  were  opportuni¬ 
ties  enough. 

The  land  Casey  purchased  was  a  small 
plot  of  four  acres,  situated  at  the  cross¬ 
roads  known  as  Curtis  Corners,  about  two 
miles  south  of  the  village  of  Little  Rest. 
There  was  a  house  and  barn  on  the  lot,  and, 
in  1753,  Samuel  sold  a  half  interest  to  his 
brother,  Gideon,  and  took  him  as  a  partner 
in  the  business  of  silversmithing.  Gideon 
was  never  the  craftsman  that  his  brother 
was,  and  it  was  Samuel  whose  silver 
tankards  and  teapots  made  him  renowned 
first  through  all  Narragansett,  then  through¬ 
out  the  Colony  itself,  and  finally  in  many 
of  the  neighboring  districts  outside  the 
Colony.  Specimens  of  his  truly  lovely  and 
delicate  engraving  (extremely  valuable  to¬ 
day)  were  to  be  found  even  in  New  York; 
and  when  the  students  of  Yale  College 
wanted  a  special  silver  tankard  to  present 
to  Ezra  Stiles  at  the  termination  of  his 
Tutorship  in  1755,  they  came  to  Samuel 
Casey.  The  Narragansett  planters’  families 
made  up  his  best  clientele,  but  their  pat¬ 
ronage  was  not  enough  to  keep  this  silver¬ 
smith  in  the  straight  and  narrow  path,  as 
we  shall  soon  see.  If  he  had  only  gone  to 
Newport  and  set  up  a  workshop,  he  prob¬ 
ably  would  have  reached  great  fame  and 
maybe  kept  out  of  a  lot  of  trouble.  There 
he  might  have  found  close  rivals  but  surely 
no  superiors,  for  his  spoons,  tongs,  tea¬ 
pots,  cups,  tankards,  and  other  pieces  of 
silver  service  would  have  matched  up  well 
with  the  best  that  the  Colonial  Period  pro¬ 

For  some  ten  years  Samuel  Casey  kept 
his  brother  as  a  partner,  finally  re-buying 
his  share  when  the  latter  left  to  settle  in 
Warwick.  In  the  following  year  came 
Samuel’s  first  disaster.  Misfortune  over¬ 
took  him,  and  his  shop  and  house  burned 
down.  The  notice  in  the  papers  of  the  time 
read:  “the  very  valuable  Dwelling-House 
of  Mr.  Samuel  Casey  .  .  .  unhappily  took 
fire,  and  was  Entirely  consumed  with  a 
great  Quantity  of  rich  Furniture.  The 
whole  Loss,  ’t  is  said,  amounts  to  near  Five 
Thousands  Pounds,  Lawful  Money.”  This 
was  a  great  deal  of  money  for  those  frugal 
days  and  is  a  good  estimate  of  Samuel’s 
success  up  to  that  time. 

The  unfortunate  craftsman  soon  set  up  a 
new  shop  in  the  garret  of  Helme  House,  a 
large  gambrel-roofed  building  which  was 
probably  the  most  imposing  in  the  com¬ 
munity.  Here  he  did  all  his  work  up  to  the 
day  when  he  was  forced  to  leave  Rhode 
Island  for  safer  parts  elsewhere.  Evidently 
the  returns  from  the  legitimate  business  of 
silversmithing  were  not  sufficient  to  meet 
the  needs  of  Samuel  Casey,  or  perhaps  he 
was  trying  to  retrieve  his  recent  loss 
quickly,  for  it  was  in  the  garret  of  Helme 
House  that  he  began  what  the  records  of 
the  time  call  “Money-making.” 

Perhaps  he  was  not  the  instigator  of  the 
idea,  for  he  was  not  alone  in  the  illegal 
enterprise.  He  was  approached  first  by 
several  men  of  South  Kingston  and  nearby 
townships,  especially  by  one  Noah  Colton. 
They  “agreed  and  contrived  to  make 
counterfeit  Dollars  and  for  that  Purpose 
provided  themselves  with  a  Set  of  Tools 
and  instruments.”  Soon  quite  a  system  was 
in  operation. 

The  first  die  was  for  making  moedores 
and  was  supplied  by  “Uzariah  Philips  of 
Smithfield  in  Providence.”  (Moedores 
were  Portuguese  gold  coins,  valued  at 
£1  16s,  and  in  common  use  in  Rhode  Is¬ 
land.)  Philips  sent  word  to  Casey  that  he 
could  find  the  die  in  a  “stoneheap”  in 
Casey’s  Meadow.  But  this  die  “not  being 
well  made  they  laid  it  by  and  used  it  no 
more.”  Dies  for  the  more  common  Spanish 
milled  dollars  were  brought  to  Casey’s 
house  by  Samuel  Willson  of  Tower  Hill. 

Sometimes  Casey  made  up  his  own  metal ; 
on  other  occasions  he  received  blanks  in 
the  shape  of  dollars  from  secret  agents.  A 



man  named  Corning  “carried  to  Samuel 
Casey  a  number  of  Dolar  Blanks  which 
were  made  by  William  Reynolds.”  In  one 
instance  Joseph  Babcock  came  to  Casey 
and  told  him  that  “in  a  certain  Place  in 
the  Declarants  great  Chamber  (where  they 
had  before  placed  counterfeit  and  true 
money)  he  would  find  something  in  a  rag 
belonging  to  a  Friend  which  wanted  his 
Assistance.”  When  Casey  looked  in  the 
designated  place,  he  found  six  or  eight 
“pieces  of  base  Metal  the  shape  and  size 
of  Spanish  Milled  Dollars,  and  he  took  and 
milled  and  stamped  and  returned  them  to 
the  same  place.”  Soon  after  he  had  told 
Babcock  what  he  had  done,  he  went  to  the 
place  to  see  if  the  counterfeit  money  was 
still  there,  but,  as  he  probably  expected, 
found  it  gone. 

Casey  got  about  300  Spanish  milled  dol¬ 
lars  and  40  half  Johannes  made  before  he 
was  caught.  (Johannes  and  half-johannes 
were  also  Portuguese  coins,  which  had 
values  of  £2  8  s.  and  £1  4  s.  respectively, 
and  which  were  known  in  the  Colony  as 
“joe”  and  “half  joe.”)  He  knew  in  advance 
that  his  game  was  up  and  told  his  cousin, 
Gideon,  who  had  been  helping  him,  to  take 
all  the  tools  and  dies  and  throw  them  “into 
a  sunken  Swamp  on  Caleb  Gardiner’s 
Ground  where  they  Cannot  be  found.”  But 
one  die  for  a  Spanish  milled  dollar  was 
overlooked  in  cleaning  out  the  garret  of 
Helme  House  and  was  found  many  years 

On  July  11,  1770,  Samuel  Casey  was 
hailed  before  the  Justices  of  Peace  (among 
them,  as  Chief  Justice,  Stephen  Hopkins)  at 
Newport  and  examined  by  them  on  a 
charge  that  in  1768  he  had  made  and 
passed  Spanish  Milled  Dollars  and  other 
coins.  He  declined  to  admit  that  he  had 
passed  them,  saying  he  had  given  them  to 
Colton,  William  Corning,  and  Thomas 
Clarke.  After  this  examination  he  was  com¬ 
mitted  to  the  King’s  County  Jail  at  Little 
Rest  and  soon  indicted  by  the  Grand  Jury 
because  “he,  on  the  third  Day  of  November 
in  the  nineth  year  of  his  Said  Majesty’s 
Reign  A.D.  1768  .  .  .  did  forge  &  Counter¬ 
feit  Ten  Peaces  of  Copper  and  other  mixed 

Metals  to  the  Likeness  &  Similitude  of  the 
Good  money  Called  Spanish  Milled  Dol¬ 
lars,  Being  Foreign  Coin  then  and  Ever 
since  Current  in  this  Colony,  which  act  of 
the  said  Samuel  Casey  is  Felony.” 

At  the  trial  Casey  pled  “Not  guilty”  and 
the  jury  returned  the  same  verdict,  but  “the 
Court  being  Dissatisfied  with  the  verdict 
sent  the  Jury  out  again.”  This  time  the 
jury  returned  the  verdict  that  if  Casey’s 
confession  at  his  examination  in  Newport, 
together  with  some  other  circumstantial  evi¬ 
dence,  seemed  to  the  court  to  be  lawful  evi¬ 
dence  against  the  prisoner,  then  they  the 
jury  would  declare  him  guilty.  The  court 
quickly  decided  on  Casey’s  guilt  and 
sentenced  him  to  be  hanged  in  November, 
1770.  He  was  then  returned  to  prison  to 
await  his  execution. 

But  Casey  had  friends  who  were  neither 
idle  nor  afraid.  On  the  night  of  November 
3,  1770,  “a  considerable  Number  of  Peo¬ 
ple  riotously  assembled  in  King’s  County, 
and  with  their  Faces  blacked  proceeded 
to  his  Majesty’s  Goal,  there,  the  outer  door 
of  which  they  broke  open  with  Iron-Bars 
and  Pick- Axes;  they  then  violently  entered 
the  Goal,  broke  every  Lock  therein  and  set 
at  Liberty  sundry  Criminals,  lately  con¬ 
victed  of  Money-making,  one  of  whom 
(Samuel  Casey)  was  under  Sentence  of 
Death.”  William  Reynolds,  Thomas  Clarke, 
and  Elisha  Reynolds  were  others  released 
at  the  same  time,  but  they  had  had  lighter 
sentences — fines,  whipping,  and  the  pil¬ 

The  Assembly  immediately  offered  £50 
reward  for  any  information  about  the 
prisoners  or  about  those  who  had  broken 
into  the  jail,  but,  as  in  the  famous  “Gas- 
pee”  affair,  many  knew  but  no  one  talked. 
An  additional  £50  was  offered  specially  for 
Samuel  Casey,  but  he  had  vanished  com¬ 
pletely.  Where  he  went,  whether  he  con¬ 
tinued  in  some  other  colony  as  a  silver¬ 
smith  or  counterfeiter,  and  where  and 
when  he  died,  some  of  his  old  and  close 
friends  might  have  known.  But  we  do  not, 
and  we  must  take  a  last  sight  of  him,  or 
rather  “his  coat  tails,”  as  he  dashed  off  on 
horseback  that  memorable  night  riding 




The  time  of  the  “Journey”  was  around 
April  26th,  1775,  therefore  much  water 
had  flowed  by  Namquit  Point  since  that 
amazing  dawn  of  June  10th,  1772,  when 
the  King’s  armed  schooner  “Gaspee” 
burned  to  the  water’s  edge  and  then  blew  up. 

In  all  the  three  years  since  that  event,  it 
is  said,  although  Governor  Wanton  had 
promptly  offered  a  reward  of  $500.00  for 
the  apprehension  of  the  men  who  had  done 
the  deed,  and  although  the  King  of  Eng¬ 
land  had  offered  $5,000.00  for  die  appre¬ 
hension  of  the  leader  of  the  expedition  and 
$2,500.00  for  any  one  of  the  “common  of¬ 
fenders,  there  was  none  within  the  limits 
of  our  State  poor  enough  to  be  bribed, 
mean  enough  to  be  bought,  or  cowardly 
enough  to  be  frightened  into  a  betrayal  of 
the  brave  men  who  struck  the  first  blow  in 
the  great  struggle  for  freedom  which  had 
to  be  fought.” 

After  so  long  a  time,  therefore,  without 
detection  by  his  Majesty’s  servants,  John 
Brown,  middle-aged  by  now,  sailing  along 
in  one  of  the  Brown-owned  vessels  carry¬ 
ing  flour  to  Providence,  might  well  have 
had  other  matters  in  mind  than  that  of  his 
own  personal  safety  on  this  22nd  day  of 
April,  1775. 

There  had  been  other  incidents  in  Rhode 
Island  in  these  three  years,  of  course.  In 
the  February  following  the  burning  of  the 
“Gaspee,”  three  hundred  pounds  of  good 
tea  had  been  burned  in  Market  Square. 
Moses  Brown  had  nothing  to  do  with  the 
destruction  of  the  tea — he  simply  vowed 
never  again  to  taste  the  herb,  a  vow  he  kept 
for  all  the  remaining  sixty  years  of  his  life. 

In  the  April  following  the  tea-burning 
there  was  a  general  Muster  of  Militia  and 
it  was  noted  that  Providence  County  had 
two  thousand  Infantry  and  a  Troop  of 
Horse  under  arms,  while  Kent  County  had 
nearly  fifteen  hundred.  Down  in  East 
Greenwich  a  lame  Quaker  and  his  friends 
had  drilled,  all  the  winter  of  1774-75,  in 
an  independent  company  of  soldiers  called 
“The  Kentish  Guards.” 

Of  course,  what  might  well  have  been 
uppermost  in  John  Brown’s  mind  on  this 

particular  April  day  was  the  amazing 
news  of  the  Battle  of  Concord  and  Lexing¬ 
ton,  which  had  been  fought  only  three  days 
before.  All  the  Colonists  must  have  been 
thinking  of  this,  and  details  and  incidents  of 
the  battle  must  have  been  on  every  tongue. 
’Tis  fairly  certain,  therefore,  that  when 
his  Majesty’s  ship,  the  “Rose,”  held  up  the 
Brown  vessel  and  the  “Rose’s”  master, 
Capt.  James  Wallace,  arrested  John  Brown 
and  hurried  him  off  to  Boston  on  a  well- 
grounded  suspicion  that  he  had  taken  part 
in  the  destruction  of  the  “Gaspee,”  his 
prisoner  must  have  been  both  surprised  and 
considerably  annoyed.  For  John  Brown, 
although  he  is  said  to  have  had  the  “cour¬ 
age  of  a  Corsair,”  had  also  a  fund  of  good 
solid  sense  and  disquieting  thoughts  may 
well  have  entered  his  mind.  For  instance, 
under  the  law  he  had  been  guilty  of 
“piracy,”  those  three  years  back,  and  the 
penalty  for  that  offense  was  dire.  Also,  he 
may  have  reflected  ruefully  that,  at  this 
particular  time  with  the  blood  of  three 
hundred  comrades  still  dyeing  the  road¬ 
sides  into  Boston,  and  the  Americans  with¬ 
in  the  last  two  days  stretching  their  ragged 
but  rugged  lines  all  the  way  down  from  the 
Mystic  River  on  the  north,  to  Dorchester 
on  the  south,  hemming  General  Gage’s 
Army  into  Boston  on  the  entire  land  side, 
the  British  were  liable  to  be  particularly 
provoked.  He  may  well  have  quaked,  al¬ 
though  he  must  have  known  that  the  news  of 
his  capture  would  stir  the  countryside. 

How  the  news  of  his  disaster  first  reached 
his  brother  Moses,  and  how  it  came  about 
that  it  was  Moses — Moses,  the  youngest 
brother;  Moses,  the  Quaker  of  a  year,  whose 
principles  forbade  his  lifting  his  hand 
against  the  enemy — who  set  out  to  his 
rescue  is  not  recorded.  Where  was  Nicho¬ 
las  in  this  emergency?  What  did  Nicho¬ 
las  believe?  Joseph  Brown  knew  about 
the  burning  of  the  King’s  ship — he 
had  been  “among  those  present.”  Therefore 
Joseph  had  good  reason  not  to  want  to 
put  his  head  into  the  British  lion’s  mouth. 
But  Joseph  may  not  have  told  his  brother 
Moses  all  that  he  knew  of  the  situation. 



Possibly,  because  John  and  Moses  were 
the  nearest  in  age,  there  was  an  unusual 
bond  between  them,  but  perhaps  the  most 
important  reason  why  Moses  should  be  the 
emissary  appears  to  be  that  Moses  did 
truly  believe  that  John  had  not  been  a 
party  to  the  act  for  which  he  was  arrested. 

When  it  was  decided  that  Moses  should 
go  to  John’s  rescue,  despite  his  brother’s 
peril,  he  did  not  start  without  making 
careful  preparation.  First,  he  collected 
nineteen  letters  from  notable  people  to  aid 
him  in  getting  through  the  British  lines. 
From  whom  were  these  letters  obtained? 
From  none  of  the  rebel  citizens,  surely. 
Perhaps  Moses,  the  man  of  peace,  num¬ 
bered  friends  on  both  sides  and  so  obtained 
important  signatures  that  would  carry 
weight  with  the  King’s  servants  in  Boston. 

At  any  rate,  armed  with  these  nineteen 
letters,  on  horseback  and  alone,  Moses 
Brown,  on  or  about  April  26,  1775,  set  out 
on  a  journey  so  remarkable  that  it  is  most 
unfortunate  that  complete  record  of  every 
hour  of  it  is  not  at  hand. 

History  tells  us  that,  after  the  battle, 
Colonists  from  all  parts  of  New  England 
streamed  along  the  roads,  leading  into  the 
village  of  Cambridge,  until,  within  four  or 
five  days,  16,000  of  them  were  encamped 
half-starved,  shivering  through  the  cold 
nights  without  blankets.  Moses  Brown  saw 
these  men  in  camp  while  attending  to  the 
formalities  necessary  in  obtaining  a  pass 
through  our  lines.  Rough,  ungainly  men 
many  of  these  patriots  were,  “round- 
shouldered  and  stiff  from  labor.  Perhaps 
in  ill-fitting  old  military  uniforms  of  blue 
turned  back  with  red,  but  most  of  them  in 
smocks  as  they  had  come  from  the  fields 
.  .  .  Some  with  great  wigs  that  had  once 
been  white,  some  in  their  own  hair,  with 
every  kind  of  hat  or  fur  cap,  every  variety 
of  old  musket  or  shot  gun;  without  or  dis¬ 
cipline,  laughing  and  talking  with  their 
leaders,  welcoming  to  their  ranks  students 
from  New  Haven,  or  clerks  from  country- 

It  was  these  unkempt  patriots,  using  a 
variety  of  ammunition  including  half -bul¬ 
lets  and  old  nails,  who  took  such  terrible 
toll  on  the  British  soldiers  at  Bunker  Hill 
in  less  than  two  months  from  that  day,  as 
they  aimed  at  the  belts  of  the  “Redcoats.” 

When  Moses  Brown  passed  successfully 

through  the  British  lines,  as  he  did,  with 
his  nineteen  letters,  he  was  the  first  man  to 
enter  the  city  of  Boston  after  the  Battle  of 
Concord  and  Lexington.  A  descendant  of 
the  Brown  family  has  written  that  it  has 
long  been  “a  difficult  question  what  ways 
and  means  such  a  good  man  could  have 
used  to  rescue  his  brother,  when  John  was 
the  very  man,  the  exact  fugitive  from  jus¬ 
tice  that  the  English  had  been  searching 
for  for  three  years  with  great  vigilance  and 
cost.”  Nine  months  before  he  died  (and 
he  lived  to  be  ninety-eight  years  old)  he 
wrote  to  a  friend  a  letter  concerning  it.  He 
recalled  in  this  letter  how  the  British  were 
in  Boston  and  the  Americans  besieging  that 
city.  He  said  that  he  passed  through  the 
lines  successfully  with  his  letters  and  that 
the  first  man  he  encountered  was  a  British 
sentinel.  The  soldier  did  not  hear  him  ap¬ 
proach  and  did  not  see  him  until  he  was 
right  upon  him.  He  turned  upon  the  gentle 
Quaker  and  gave  him  such  a  “blast”  as  he 
had  never  before  received.  But  there  was 
something  in  that  earnest  face  before  him 
which  must  have  reassured  the  sentinel.  No 
doubt  he  was  impressed  that  here  was  no  or¬ 
dinary  intruder.  Perhaps  the  famous  letters 
carried  weight.  At  any  rate,  he  calmed 
down  and  escorted  Moses  through  scenes 
in  marked  contrast  to  the  undisciplined 
camp  he  had  just  left — through  companies 
of  disciplined  soldiers  who  wore  scarlet 
coats  and  white  knee-breeches  and  who 
carried  muskets  whose  barrels  fairly  shone, 
until  he  came  to  the  headquarters  of  Gen¬ 
eral  Gage.  Then  he  was  taken  to  Vice- 
Admiral  Graves,  to  Chief -Justice  Peter 
Oliver,  and,  finally,  to  “Brother  John” 

Judge  Oliver,  who  had  been  instructed  by 
his  Majesty  to  find  out  who  burnt  the 
“Gaspee,”  was  puzzled.  He  said  to  Moses : 
“It  is  true  there  were  named  before  the 
Court  five  John  Browns,  some  white, 
some  black,  but  no  person  was  so  identi¬ 
fied  as  to  enable  the  Court  to  issue  any 
process,  and,  on  considering  the  subject, 
we  were  united  in  judgment  that  nothing 
further  could  be  done,  and  I  will  speak  to 
the  Admiral  if  you  wish  it.”  And,  at  his 
request,  the  Admiral  set  “Brother  John”  at 

In  the  letter  to  his  friend,  Moses  Brown 
made  a  statement  which,  considering  the 



character  of  the  man,  should  be  regarded  as 
testimony  of  all  weight.  The  statement  was : 
“It  happened  well  for  me  and  John  that  I 
knew  nothing  of  his  being  concerned  in 
the  burning  of  the  ‘Gaspee,’  or  that  he  was 
charged  with  it.” 

History  says  that  it  was  his  “earnest  en¬ 
treaty  in  behalf  of  ‘Brother  John,’  his  per¬ 
fect  certainty  that  John  had  no  connection 
whatever  with  the  affair,  that  brought  about 
his  rescue.” 

The  two  brothers  prepared  now  to  re¬ 
turn  to  Providence.  With  but  one  horse, 
the  one  on  which  Moses  had  ridden  to 
Boston,  it  was  decided  that  as  John  was  so 
much  bigger  he  should  sit  in  front  while 
Moses  rode  behind.  And  in  this  way  the 
two  brothers  returned  home. 

On  their  arrival  in  Providence — and  one 
wonders  at  what  hour — they  were  received 
with  “joy  beyond  expression.” 

They  were  at  once  called  before  the  Gen¬ 
eral  Assembly  to  relate  all  that  they  had 
seen  and  heard.  Stephen  Hopkins,  then  a 
Member  of  Congress,  was  among  those 
present.  After  a  spirited  discussion  at  that 
sitting,  the  Assembly  voted  to  raise  a  regi¬ 
ment  of  five  hundred  men  and  to  place 
General  Greene  and  General  Varnum  at  the 
head  of  it. 

And  by  and  by,  after  weary  years,  the 
War  was  over  and  the  “Four  Brothers”  free 
to  lead  each  in  his  own  way,  a  life  which 
to  this  day  makes  honorable  impress  on 
our  State  of  Rhode  Island  and  these  “Plant¬ 


Many  today  can  remember  the  last  of  the 
stagecoaches  or  stages  which  carried 
mail  and  travelers  to  the  rural  towns.  With 
the  establishment  of  the  rural  free  delivery 
mail  service,  these  lumbering  stages  grad¬ 
ually  disappeared.  But  the  great  coach  and 
six  that  followed  the  post  road  between 
cities  went  out  with  the  coming  of  the  rail¬ 
road.  And,  within  a  few  decades,  when  the 
sound  of  the  coach  horn  no  longer  echoed 
from  hill  to  hill  and  the  rattle  of  wheels  and 
pounding  of  hooves  had  died  away,  the  tav¬ 
ern  also  passed  into  oblivion. 

The  tavern  was  usually  located  near  the 
meeting  house,  being  a  close  second  in  im¬ 
portance,  and  was  variously  known  as  a 
tavern,  inn,  or  ordinary.  Many  things  the 
meeting  house  lacked  the  other  supplied — 
warmth  in  winter,  coolness  in  summer,  com¬ 
fort  for  the  body  (and  perhaps  for  the  spirit 
as  well ) .  But  when  people  began  to  neglect 
the  church  entirely  for  the  tavern,,  the 
church  elders  passed  laws  to  make  them  at¬ 
tend  the  former.  “Frozen  out”  of  one,  they 
were  soon  “frozen”  in  the  other.  Yet,  when 
a  meeting  house  or  church  was  to  be  raised, 
an  inn  was  decidedly  necessary,  for  no 
great  building  could  ever  be  raised  without 
hot  toddy  and  rum. 

In  fact,  taverns  were  the  only  places 

where  liquors  could  be  bought  and  sold. 
They  were  licensed  and  forced  to  maintain 
order.  Eleazer  Arnold,  of  Providence,  re¬ 
ceived  his  license  in  1710,  but  he  was  not 
the  first,  for,  in  1674,  John  Whipple  had 
been  allowed  to  “keepe  a  house  of  Inter- 
tainment.”  The  doors  of  the  early  taverns 
were  open  to  all  except  apprentices,  negroes, 
and  Indians,  although  the  last  were  grad¬ 
ually  admitted. 

These  first  taverns  did  not  have  the  guest 
facilities  which  we  usually  associate  with 
the  name.  Whipple’s  ordinary  had  only 
two  rooms  and  no  place  to  put  up  travelers. 
However,  it  did  have  “pewter  basins,  quart 
pots,  pint  pots,  gillpots,  glass  bottles,  and 
other  dishes,”  which  were  much  more  in 
demand  than  “old  fether  beds,”  broken 
“bedstuds,”  and  “old  Red  Coverlets.”  In 
Boston  there  were  a  few  taverns  with  all 
the  spaciousness  of  a  mansion.  These  had 
separately  furnished  rooms,  each  with  a 
name  of  its  own.  However,  the  majority 
by  far  were  like  the  Whipple  inn.  And 
they  grew  in  numbers  like  weeds,  until,  by 
1696,  they  had  already  begun  to  be  de¬ 
nounced  as  a  bad  influence.  While  there 
was  little  show  about  them,  they  actually 
did  a  great  deal  for  travelers.  Bills  were 
figured  according  to  capacity  to  pay,  and 
guests  received  all  the  comforts  and  at- 



tention  of  a  private  home.  Dr.  Johnson  was 
reputed  to  have  said,  “No  sir,  there  is  noth¬ 
ing  which  has  yet  been  contrived  by  man 
by  which  so  much  happiness  is  produced 
as  by  a  good  tavern  or  inn.” 

The  tavernkeepers  themselves  were  a  pic¬ 
turesque  lot.  Usually  stout,  good-natured, 
good-looking,  and  well-dressed,  they  were 
prominent  public  figures,  enjoying  all  sorts 
of  confidences,  public  and  private,  leading 
the  singing  in  the  meeting  houses,  running 
ferries,  teaching  the  children  of  travelers, 
serving  on  the  legislature  or  town  council, 
acting  as  recruiting  officers  in  times  of 
war,  as  storekeepers,  surveyors,  or  story¬ 
tellers.  Some  were  frugal  and  thrifty,  some 
mean  and  penurious,  while  others  were  ex¬ 
travagant.  Some  were  of  bitter  dispositions, 
but,  as  a  rule,  they  were  jolly  enough. 

Justice  Eleazer  Arnold  held  court  in  his 
tavern  on  the  Mendon  road  near  Lincoln 
Woods.  Here  was  one  place,  at  least,  where 
the  Indians  found  a  warm  welcome.  He  had 
in  his  tavern,  when  his  belongings  were 
reckoned  up,  the  “old  bed  the  Indians  used 
to  Lie  on.”  Whether  this  is  meant  in  the 
same  sense  as  in  the  story  told  of  William 
Penn  and  the  Indians  is  not  known.  In 
that  case  it  was  humorously  said  that  he 
and  the  Indians  used  to  retire  to  the  house 
and  lie  and  talk  for  hours,  Penn  doing  the 
talking  and  the  Indians  the  lying. 

Henry  Bowen,  who  operated  a  famous 
tavern  in  Barrington  before  the  Revolution, 
was  a  great  public  man,  serving  as  store¬ 
keeper,  Sunday  constable,  moderator,  tax 
assessor  and  collector,  and  recruiting  officer. 
Thomas  Fenner,  a  keeper  of  a  tavern  in 
Neutaconconit,  was  a  major,  a  justice  of  the 
peace,  a  storekeeper,  and  noted  surveyor. 

One  of  the  most  distinctive  features  of 
the  old  tavern  was  its  sign.  Always  con¬ 
spicuous,  even  when  it  simply  consisted  of 
a  rude  board  with  the  painted  name,  it  stuck 
out  from  the  side  of  the  tavern  itself,  or 
hung  from  a  nearby  tree.  Signs  themselves 
originated  in  Greek  and  Roman  days,  and 
from  the  latter  the  English  derived  the  tav¬ 
ern  symbol,  the  “bush.”  An  ordinance  of 
Louis  XIV  of  France  read:  “Tavernkeepers 
must  put  up  synboards  and  a  bush.”  The 
names  on  these  signboards  on  the  colonial 
taverns  were  of  all  sorts,  copied  in  many 
cases  from  those  of  England,  and  ranging 

from  the  “White  Horse,”  “Crown,”  “Boar,” 
to  “Shakespeare’s  Head”  and  the  “Golden 
Ball  Inn”  of  Providence. 

“Training  days”  were  the  busiest  for  inn¬ 
keepers.  In  the  days  prior  to  the  Revolu¬ 
tion  all  males  had  to  practice  arms  at  least 
once  a  week,  usually  on  Saturday.  In  Prov¬ 
idence  it  was  “ordered  that  those  if  arms 
which  are  one  mile  off  the  town  alone  shall 
have  liberty  to  leave  one  man  at  home  on 
the  trayneing  dayes.”  This  privilege  was 
allowed  as  a  means  of  protection  against 
prowling  Indians.  Because  tavernkeepers 
in  many  cases  were  also  military  officers, 
they  were  sometimes  accused  of  ordering 
drills  to  increase  their  tavern  trade.  Other 
particular  days  of  importance  in  the  life 
of  the  taverns  were  market  days,  when  the 
farmers  from  out  of  town  regaled  them¬ 
selves  after  their  trading,  and  Ordinance 
Days,  held  for  new  ministers. 

But  what  of  the  taverns  themselves?  How 
were  they  arranged  within  and  what  sort 
of  cheer  did  they  offer?  Of  first  impor¬ 
tance  was  the  great  room.  A  huge  fireplace 
almost  filled  one  whole  side  (that  of  Eleazer 
Arnold  was  especially  noteworthy).  Here 
the  huge  logs  burned  fiercely  in  winter, 
throwing  a  wealth  of  warmth  into  the  room, 
but  in  summer  the  fireplace  was  filled  with 
green  shrubs.  The  floor  of  the  room  was  of 
hard  oak,  sanded  and  polished  smooth  and 
white.  Scattered  about  were  chests,  chairs, 
benches,  settees,  and  stools.  The  ceiling  was 
usually  low-studded,  with  great  hand-hewn 
beams.  The  bar,  perhaps  the  most  impor¬ 
tant  adjunct,  stood  in  one  corner,  although 
it  was  sometimes  in  the  form  of  an  adjoin¬ 
ing  buffet.  Hanging  by  the  fireplace  was 
the  flip-iron,  known  also  as  “hottle,  logger- 
head,  and  flip-dog”  and  indispensible  in  the 
concoction  of  many  favorite  beverages.  This 
instrument  was  heated  and  plunged  into 
liquors  to  give  them  a  peculiar,  bitter  and 
dearly  loved  flavor.  It  was  often  broken 
during  repeated  heatings  and  had  to  be  sent 
to  the  blacksmith  for  repair.  Henry  Bowen 
of  Barrington  derived  much  popularity 
from  his  punch,  prepared  in  a  “large  De¬ 
fiance  punch  bowl.”  Another  favorite  drink 
was  flip  or  battered  flip,  made  of  beer  and 
a  beaten  egg,  stirred  well  with  a  hot  flip- 
iron,  and  brought  to  a  finish  with  a  dash  of 
rum.  But  there  were  many  popular  New 



England  drinks,  such  as  punch,  cider, 
strong  beer,  porter,  grog,  port,  sherry, 
toddy,  claret,  and  rum.  The  most  common 
was  cider,  first  introduced  by  William 

All  sorts  of  entertainment  were  offered 
in  addition  to  liquid  refreshment.  Here, 
all  kinds  of  strange  captive  animals,  mon¬ 
strosities,  and  the  like  were  exhibited,  for 
the  old  tavemkeeper  was  a  born  showman 
and  knew  how  to  draw  a  crowd.  At  the 
tavern,  too,  gathered  many  of  the  old  and 
young  to  dance  the  old  square  dances  and 
the  minuets.  The  music  supplied  by  a  viol, 
flute,  fiddle,  or  spinnet  was  weak,  but  once 
the  spirit  of  the  gathering  was  aroused, 
the  singing  voices  carried  on  the  tunes. 

Thus,  in  nearly  every  respect,  the  taverns 
were  the  center  of  town  and  community  life. 
Roger  Williams  held  meetings  in  the  Mow- 
ry  Tavern,  built  in  1655  at  the  north  end 
of  the  city.  Before  the  Revolution  the  tav¬ 
erns  were  the  meeting  places  for  those  who 
discussed  revolt.  At  Peleg  Arnold’s  Inn,  in 
Smithfield,  minute  men  were  recruited,  and 
Captain  Joseph  Olney  named  one  of  his 
huge  elms  in  front  of  his  tavern  “The  Lib¬ 

erty  Tree.”  At  James  Sabin’s  waterfront 
tavern  gathered  the  men  who  set  out  to 
burn  the  “Gaspee,”  and  General  Prescott, 
after  his  capture,  was  taken  to  David  Arn¬ 
old’s  Inn  in  Warwick.  “Pitt’s  Head”  and 
“White  Horse,”  famous  taverns  of  New¬ 
port,  were  first  recruiting  stations  for  the 
patriots  and  then  the  quarters  for  the  Eng¬ 
lish  and  Hessians  during  the  occupation 
of  Newport. 

In  stagecoach  days  the  taverns  took  on  a 
new  importance,  for  they  became  booking 
places  for  all  travelers  and  mail.  Crowds 
gathered  to  greet  the  arrival  of  the  stage¬ 
coach,  curious  to  learn  news  of  other  States 
and  outlying  districts. 

But  the  days  of  the  stagecoach  are  also 
gone.  The  clouds  of  dust,  the  roar  and 
rattle,  the  plunging  horses,  the  coachman’s 
shouts,  the  blare  of  the  horn,  and  the  bust¬ 
ling  about,  building  up  the  fire,  bringing 
out  porter  and  punch,  unloading  of  baggage 
and  passengers,  the  care  of  the  horses,  ques¬ 
tions  asked  and  answered,  all  the  general 
excitement  and  confusion  are  gone  and  with 
them  the  tavern  days,  the  last  days  of  real 
Colonial  romance  and  quaintness. 


IN  addition  to  whatever  military  forces 
the  Colonial  government  of  Rhode  Isl¬ 
and  equipped  and  maintained  for  purposes 
of  defense,  there  were  various  independent 
military  organizations  which  were  founded 
during  fluctuating  waves  of  patriotic  enthu¬ 
siasm.  While  the  desire  to  band  together 
in  clubs  and  associations  has  always  been 
a  strong  human  characteristic,  the  chaotic 
period  of  American  history,  which  extended 
from  the  years  just  prior  to  the  Revolution 
to  those  just  following  the  War  of  1812, 
provided  unusual  stimuli  for  the  formation 
of  many  private  organizations  of  a  military 
nature.  Among  such  Rhode  Island  mili¬ 
tary  organizations  of  independent  origin 
and  maintenance,  none  was  more  famous 
than  the  Kentish  Guards.  It  was  in  Kent 
County,  more  exactly  in  East  Greenwich, 
that  the  idea  of  forming  this  organization 

was  first  conceived,  and,  in  1774,  after  a 
large  group  of  patriotic  citizens  had  drawn 
up  a  tentative  charter  and  petitioned  the 
General  Assembly  for  an  “Act  of  Incor¬ 
poration,”  the  charter  was  granted  and  the 
unit,  called  the  “Kentish  Guards,”  came 
into  existence. 

There  were  in  the  neighborhood  of  180 
men  in  the  complete  personnel  of  this  unit. 
Liberal  funds  had  been  raised  privately  to 
establish  and  outfit  the  Guards,  and  they 
were  supplied  with  elaborate  uniforms  and 
equipment.  In  addition,  they  received  ex¬ 
cellent  military  training  and  rapidly  be¬ 
came  a  competent  and  well-disciplined 
company.  Many  men,  prominent  not  only 
in  East  Greenwich  but  in  the  Colony  as  a 
whole,  were  members  of  the  Kentish  Guards, 
and,  during  the  Revolution,  the  organiza¬ 
tion  gave  more  distinguished  officers  to  the 
Continental  Army  than  any  other  indepen¬ 
dent  unit  of  its  sort  throughout  New  Eng- 



land.  Of  especial  note  were  Major-General 
Nathanael  Greene,  who  rose  to  be  second 
only  to  Washington  himself;  Brigadier- 
General  James  Varnum,  Colonel  Christo¬ 
pher  Greene,  who  defeated  the  Hessians  at 
Red  Bank,  New  Jersey;  Colonel  Archibald 
Crary,  Major  John  S.  Dexter  and  Captain 
Thomas  Arnold.  Many  of  lower  rank  also 
had  especially  commendable  military  ca¬ 
reers,  and  in  all  more  than  thirty-five  of  the 
Kentish  Guards  were  in  the  Continental 

When,  in  the  Battle  of  Lexington,  in  1775, 
the  sturdy  Massachusetts  patriots  “fired  the 
shot  heard  round  the  world,”  the  echo  of 
this  commencement  of  hostilities  with  the 
British  came  swiftly  and  clearly  to  Rhode 
Island.  The  Kentish  Guards,  well-trained 
and  eager  for  action,  were  not  slow  in  re¬ 
sponding  to  the  call  of  their  countrymen  of 
the  Bay  State.  In  little  more  than  two 
hours  after  the  news  of  the  repulse  of  the 
British  reached  the  Providence  Plantations 
by  rider,  the  guards  were  on  the  march 
northward.  But  the  thrills  of  anticipation, 
the  brave  martial  music,  the  excitement 
of  marching  out  of  East  Greenwich,  were 
evidences  of  a  patriotic  fervor  that  was 
doomed  to  disappointment.  When  the 
Guards,  one  hundred  and  ten  strong, 
reached  Pawtucket,  they  were  halted  and 
ordered  back  by  Governor  Joseph  Wanton. 
While  the  fact  that  the  British  had  returned 
to  Boston  and  fortified  themselves  securely 
in  that  stronghold  was  given  as  a  reason  for 
this  command,  it  is  probable  that  the  Gov¬ 
ernor  was  more  than  a  little  in  sympathy 
with  the  British  cause  and  was  somewhat  of 
a  Tory.  However,  disregarding  the  order, 
Nathanael  Greene  and  two  companions 
marched  on  to  Boston  and  offered  their  ser¬ 
vices  to  General  Washington,  in  Cambridge. 
This  act  on  the  part  of  the  staunch  Rhode 
Islanders  aroused  the  deep  admiration  of 
Washington,  and  it  was  this  deed  that  was 
the  foundation  for  his  later  great  friendship 
and  faith  in  Nathanael  Greene. 

After  having  returned  to  East  Greenwich, 
the  remainder  of  the  Kentish  Guards  pro¬ 
ceeded  to  erect  a  fort  at  the  entrance  to  East 
Greenwich  Bay  as  a  protection  for  the  town 
and  surrounding  countryside  against  the 
British  ships  then  in  Narragansett  Bay.  This 
fortification,  named  Fort  Daniels,  was 
equipped  with  eight  or  ten  cannon,  which 

were  taken  to  West  Point  after  the  Revolu¬ 
tion.  While  a  guard  was  maintained  there 
for  a  long  time  and  the  fort  had  its  day  of 
importance,  no  trace  of  it  now  remains  ex¬ 
cept  in  the  town  records. 

If  the  main  body  of  the  Kentish  Guards 
was  disappointed  in  not  being  able  to  join 
Washington  and  the  Continental  Army  at 
Cambridge,  there  was  still  plenty  to  keep 
it  on  the  alert  right  in  the  vicinity  of  East 
Greenwich.  Small  details  of  men  from  the 
organization  were  often  engaged  in  run¬ 
ning  down  and  capturing  spies  that  ap¬ 
peared  in  the  vicinity,  the  case  of  a  man 
named  Hart  being  a  particular  example. 
Quite  frequently  the  Guards  were  called  to 
Quidnesset  Point,  two  or  three  miles  below 
East  Greenwich,  to  prevent  the  British  ships 
from  landing  plundering  parties.  In  many 
of  these  cases  the  British  had  been  aided  by 
Tories  who  knew  the  countryside  well  and 
helped  the  enemy  in  their  raids. 

The  activities  of  British  warships,  one  of 
twenty-five  tons  in  command  of  Captain 
Wallace  and  another  of  twenty  tons  com¬ 
manded  by  Captain  Ascough,  were  espe¬ 
cially  watched,  particularly  after  the  form¬ 
er  commander  had  landed  at  Canonicut  Is¬ 
land,  burned  many  houses,  carried  off  cat¬ 
tle  and  provisions,  and  even  killed  some  of 
the  inhabitants.  At  one  time,  when  a  ship 
was  driven  ashore  near  East  Greenwich  and 
captured  by  the  enemy,  the  Kentish  Guards 
sent  a  detachment  to  retake  the  vessel.  A 
short  but  sharp  skirmish  ensued,  but  the 
patriots  were  victorious. 

On  a  later  expedition  against  the  British, 
the  guards  sailed  a  sloop  to  Prudence  Isl¬ 
and.  In  the  midst  of  the  work  of  landing 
supplies  and  provisions  they  were  interrupt¬ 
ed  by  a  runner  from  the  other  end  of  the 
island  who  informed  them  that  the  British 
were  landing  two  hundred  men  at  a  point 
only  three  miles  away.  Although  the  Kent¬ 
ish  Guards  were  only  eighty  in  number,  the 
rest  of  their  unit  being  still  on  the  mainland, 
they  made  a  brave  show  with  flags  and 
drums  (for  their  guns  and  ammunition  had 
not  been  landed)  and  succeeded  in  scaring 
off  the  enemy.  Again,  in  1778,  the  guards 
attempted  to  go  to  the  aid  of  General  Sul¬ 
livan  on  Newport  Island,  but  their  transport 
was  cut  off  by  an  English  warship,  and  they 
were  forced  to  land  at  Pappoosesquaw 
Point,  opposite  Bristol.  While  there  they  re- 



ceived  orders  not  to  go  on,  so  they  encamped 
and  took  care  of  the  wounded  from  the  Bat¬ 
tle  of  Rhode  Island. 

After  the  Revolution  the  Kentish  Guards 
entered  upon  an  era  of  non-activity  until 
the  advent  of  the  War  of  1812.  Again  men 
from  their  ranks  joined  governmental  forces 
and  gave  good  account  of  themselves. 
However,  the  real  high-point  in  the  career 
of  the  Guards  as  an  organization  came  in 
1842  when  they  played  a  prominent  part  in 
what  was  known  as  the  Dorr  War.  Answer¬ 
ing  a  call  from  Governor  King,  they 
marched  to  Providence,  under  the  com¬ 
mand  of  Colonel  Allen.  This  was  at  a  time 
when  Dorr  himself  with  his  followers  at¬ 
tempted  to  capture  the  Cranston  Street  Ar¬ 
senal.  However,  the  threatened  attack 
failed,  and  the  Guards  did  not  have  any  real 
work  to  do.  A  month  intervened  before 
Governor  King  again  called  for  the  Guards, 
this  time  sending  a  special  train  to  bring 
them  directly  to  Pawtucket.  After  the  Dorr 
affair,  trouble  and  rebellion  had  been  brew¬ 
ing  among  the  people,  until  it  had  broken 
out  in  rioting  in  Pawtucket. 

The  Kentish  Guards,  about  fifty  or  sixty 
in  number,  took  up  their  posts  at  a  bridge 
over  the  Blackstone  River  and  at  Main 
Street  opposite  Mill  Street.  Mobs,  who 
assembled  to  watch,  taunted  the  soldiers 
and  even  threatened  them  with  violence. 
Attempts  were  made  to  break  the  line  of 
guards,  and  one  man  with  a  horse  and  car¬ 
riage  was  encouraged  to  break  the  ranks. 

His  persistent  attempts  made  it  necessary 
for  the  Guards  to  fire  at  the  horse,  an  action 
which  stirred  the  mob  into  throwing  bricks 
and  missiles  of  all  sorts.  When  the  soldiers 
fired  with  blank  cartridges  to  frighten  the 
enraged  multitude,  the  latter  only  became 
more  furious.  Despite  all  the  taunts  and  the 
more  serious  danger  from  the  flying  mis¬ 
siles,  the  Kentish  Guards  refrained  from  at¬ 
tacking  and  maintained  perfect  discipline. 
So  reluctant  were  they  to  cause  injury  to 
anyone  that  they  elevated  their  guns  above 
the  heads  of  the  people  when  ordered  to 
fire.  Matters  had  to  reach  a  climax,  how¬ 
ever,  and  after  a  more  threatening  advance 
upon  the  part  of  certain  body  of  men,  the 
Guards  shot  in  earnest,  killing  the  ring  lead¬ 
er.  This  seemed  to  bring  the  people  to  their 
senses,  and  they  dispersed  immediately.  The 
fact  that  it  was  a  rainy  day,  and  consequent¬ 
ly  one  calculated  to  dampen  the  most  violent 
spirits,  was,  perhaps,  instrumental  in  reduc¬ 
ing  the  number  of  casualties  that  might 
otherwise  have  occurred. 

After  this  engagement,  the  Kentish 
Guards  again  returned  to  East  Greenwich 
and  were  highly  honored  by  their  fellow 
townsmen.  Resolutions  of  thanks  were 
drawn  up  and  sent  to  them  by  citizens  of 
Pawtucket,  while  in  addition,  they  were  pre¬ 
sented  with  a  handsome  blue  silk  flag  by 
ladies  of  Providence.  The  episode  was  con¬ 
cluded  with  a  highly  laudatory  sermon 
preached  in  their  honor  by  Reverend  Crane 
of  East  Greenwich. 


ON  the  perfect  autumnal  afternoon  of 
Saturday,  October  7th,  1775,  word  was 
spread  through  the  peaceful  town  of  Bris¬ 
tol  of  the  approach  of  a  fleet  of  British 
war- vessels,  which  had,  for  some  months, 
been  stationed  at  Newport.  The  fleet,  con¬ 
sisting  of  the  war-ships,  “Rose,”  “Glas¬ 
gow,”  and  “Swan,”  one  bomb-brig,  a 
schooner,  and  some  smaller  vessels,  sailed 
leisurely  up  the  bay  in  a  light  southerly 
breeze,  and  when  they  dropped  anchor, 
about  sunset,  the  entire  population  lined 
the  shore,  to  witness  the  unusual  spectacle. 

That  the  visit  was  other  than  a  friendly  one, 
was  wholly  unsuspected. 

Captain  Sir  James  Wallace  was  in  com¬ 
mand,  with  the  “Rose”  as  his  flag-ship.  Fol¬ 
lowing  the  firing  of  a  royal  salute,  from 
the  flag-ship,  at  eight  o’clock,  a  barge  from 
the  same  vessel,  pulled  into  the  wharf.  A 
Lieutenant  stepped  ashore  and  informed  the 
assembled  citizens  that  Captain  Wallace 
had  a  demand  to  make  and  desired  some 
representative  townsman  to  visit  him,  on 
the  “Rose,”  at  once,  or  the  town  would  be 
attacked  without  further  ceremony. 



William  Bradford,  as  a  Magistrate,  told 
the  Lieutenant  that  inasmuch  as  the  demand 
came  from  Captain  Wallace,  there  was  no 
reason  why  the  townsmen  should  go  to  him, 
but  if  he  would  come  to  the  head  of  the 
wharf  in  the  morning,  he  would  be  re¬ 
ceived  as  a  gentleman,  and  his  demands 

The  Lieutenant  returned  to  the  “Rose,” 
and  an  hour  later,  while  the  citizens  were 
anxiously  awaiting  Captain  Wallace’s  re¬ 
ply,  the  entire  fleet  began  a  heavy  cannon¬ 
ading,  and  the  bomb-ship  heaved  shells  and 
carcasses  filled  with  combustibles  into  the 
town.  This  continued  for  an  hour  and  a 
half.  In  the  midst  of  the  hottest  fire,  Colonel 
Potter  went  aboard  the  “Rose”  and  re¬ 
quested  a  cessation  of  hostilities  until  the 
inhabitants  could  choose  a  committee  to 
confer  with  Captain  Wallace.  A  truce  of 
six  hours  was,  therefore,  declared.  The 
committee  which  went  to  the  flag-ship  was 
met  by  Captain  Wallace  with  the  curt  de¬ 
mand  that  they  supply  him,  at  once,  with 
200  sheep  and  30  fat  cattle.  This  was  im¬ 
possible,  as  the  farmers  had  driven  their 
stock  back  into  the  country  and  only  one 
sheep  and  a  few  cows  remained.  After  sev¬ 
eral  hours  of  negotiations  the  Captain  said, 
“I  have  this  one  proposal  to  make:  if  you 
will  promise  to  supply  me  with  40  sheep, 
at  or  before  12  o’clock,  I  will  assure  you 
that  another  gun  shall  not  be  discharged.” 

Faced  with  the  alternative  of  furnishing 
their  enemies  with  food,  or  jeopardizing  the 
safety  of  the  town,  the  committee  had  no 
choice  but  to  deliver  the  sheep,  which  they 
did  at  the  appointed  time.  After  stealing 
about  90  sheep  and  some  poultry  from 
Popasquash,  the  fleet  weighed  anchor  and 
moored  at  Popasquash  Point.  The  next  day 
they  went  into  Bristol  Ferry-way  and  fired 
several  shots  at  the  houses  and  people  on 
shore.  Three  of  the  ships  went  aground,  but 
were  floated  with  the  rising  tide,  and  the 
fleet  departed. 

It  is  thought  that  in  firing  on  the  town  it 
was  Wallace’s  idea  to  intimidate  the  inhabi¬ 
tants,  rather  than  do  serious  harm,  because 
the  guns  of  the  vessels  were  set  at  an  angle 
which  sent  most  of  the  shot  over  the  houses 
into  the  rising  ground  behind  the  town. 

Nevertheless,  the  church,  the  meeting  house, 
the  court  house,  and  several  dwellings  were 
pierced  by  the  shots.  One  shot  struck  a  lo¬ 
cust  tree  on  State  Street,  and  glanced  off 
into  the  Walley  house,  where  it  was  discov¬ 
ered  embedded  in  the  ceiling,  in  1840.  An¬ 
other  shot  entered  Finney’s  Distillery, 
passed  through  three  hogsheads  and  bar¬ 
rels  of  rum,  and  spilt  the  contents.  A  good 
sized  grape-shot  pierced  the  walls  of  Ben¬ 
jamin  Smith’s  house,  on  the  west  side  of 
Hope  Street,  passed  over  the  bed  in  which 
his  son  was  asleep,  and  lodged  in  the  fire¬ 
place,  where  it  was  allowed  to  remain  for 
some  time  as  a  memento. 

A  great  gap  was  made  in  the  stone  wall 
near  Governor  Bradford’s  home,  and  while 
the  Governor  was  climbing  the  fence  be¬ 
tween  the  garden  and  the  house,  a  shot  sent 
flying  into  the  air  a  board  on  which  his 
hand  had  rested  but  a  moment  before.  An¬ 
other  shot  reduced  to  splinters  the  curb  of 
a  well  from  which  a  man  was  drawing  wa¬ 
ter.  For  many  years  afterwards  the  plows 
of  the  farmers  constantly  turned  up  quan¬ 
tities  of  rusty  shot.  This  bombardment, 
naturally  enough,  brought  consternation  to 
the  citizens,  and  even  the  skies  turned  black, 
and  a  torrential  rain  fell.  An  unusually 
fatal  epidemic  had  been  raging  for  some 
weeks,  and  more  than  sixty  of  the  sick  were 
hurriedly  carried  out  into  the  rain  by  their 
terror-stricken  families,  the  exposure  prov¬ 
ing  fatal  in  several  cases. 

Fortunately,  not  a  single  person  was 
struck  by  the  flying  shot,  the  only  other 
fatality  being  the  death  of  the  Reverend 
John  Burt,  who  was  found,  face  down,  in 
a  corn-field  to  which  he  had  fled,  in  fear, 
from  his  sick-bed. 

The  following  bit  of  poetry,  inspired  by 
the  Bombardment,  was  popular  for  many 
years,  although  it  has  little  literary  value : 

In  seventeen  hundred  and  seventy-five 
Our  Bristol  town  was  much  surprised 
By  a  pack  of  thievish  villains, 

That  will  not  work  to  earn  their  livings. 

October,  ’t  was  the  seventh  day, 

As  I  have  heard  the  people  say, 

Wallace,  his  name  be  ever  curst, 

Came  in  our  harbor  just  at  dusk. 

The  Empire-Aborn  Branch  of  the  Providence  Institution  for  Savings, 
Empire  and  Aborn  Streets,  between  Westminster 
and  Washington  Streets 
Erected  1929. 

■  t 



And  there  his  ships  did  safely  moor, 

And  quickly  sent  his  barge  on  shore 
With  orders  that  should  not  be  broke, 

Or  they  might  expect  a  smoke. 

Demanding  that  the  magistrates 
Should  quickly  come  on  board  his  ships, 
And  let  him  have  some  sheep  and  cattle, 
Or  they  might  expect  a  battle. 

At  eight  o’clock,  by  signal  given, 

Our  peaceful  atmosphere  was  riven 

By  British  balls,  both  grape  and  round, 
As  plenty  afterward  were  found. 

But  oh!  to  hear  the  doleful  cries 
Of  people  running  for  their  lives! 

Women,  with  children  in  their  arms, 
Running  away  to  the  farms. 

With  all  their  firing  and  their  skill 
They  did  not  any  person  kill. 

Neither  was  any  person  hurt 
But  the  Reverend  Parson  Burt. 

And,  he  was  not  killed  by  a  ball, 

As  judged  by  jurors,  one  and  all: 

But  being  in  a  sickly  state, 

He  frightened  fell,  which  proved  his  fate. 

Another  truth  to  you  I’ll  tell, 

That  you  may  see  they  levelled  well : 

For,  aiming  for  to  kill  the  people, 

They  fired  their  shot  into  a  steeple. 

They  fired  low,  they  fired  high, 

The  women  scream,  the  children  cry: 

And  all  their  firing  and  their  racket 
Shot  off  the  topmast  of  a  packet. 


Years  upon  years  roll  by  giving  to 
things  created  long  ago  a  rich  old  flavor 
and  a  time-aged  mellowness.  In  liqueurs, 
towns,  and  men  the  first  sharp  tastes,  the 
feverish  love  of  growth,  the  youthful  ner¬ 
vousness  is  blended  out;  and  gradually  the 
pulses  of  all  three  calm  down  to  easy 

The  pulse  of  old  East  Greenwich  is 
smooth.  It  beats  quietly  beneath  the  roar 
of  rail  and  highway  traffic.  It  beats  calmly 
behind  the  modern  shopping  district  which 
is  growing  so  fast,  behind  the  dapper,  white 
flotilla  of  yachts  and  motorboats  in  the 
harbor,  behind  the  hurried  lives  of  a  new 
kind  of  inhabitant.  Why  should  East  Green¬ 
wich,  old  and  famous,  be  disturbed  by 
change?  Like  an  old  man  quietly  smoking 
before  a  fire,  the  town  lives  back  among  its 
memories.  The  old  houses  that  sit  by  day 
watching  the  endless  stream  of  moving  cars 
wait  patiently  for  night,  when  the  darkness 
brings  the  lighted  stage-coach  rumbling 
into  town. 

Again,  the  light  shines  from  the  windows 
of  the  tavern,  and  the  bay  is  dotted  with 
gray  ghost  sails  of  lean  “four-masters” 
heading  for  the  docks.  The  old  town  hears 
sailors  laughing  through  the  night  when 
no  one  else  hears  anything  at  all.  The 
day  sees  everything  as  it  is;  only  at  night 

can  the  old  town  vision  the  past.  It  sees 
the  stocks  and  pillories  before  the  court 
house,  and  at  the  head  of  King  Street.  For 
it,  the  Kentish  Guards  again  parade  in 
all  their  colonial  finery.  The  very  town¬ 
ship  changes;  the  new  is  whisked  away  and 
in  its  stead  the  old  dirt  roads  come  back, 
the  shipyards  raise  their  framework,  old 
shops  replace  the  new,  and  in  the  old  gray 
houses  visions  of  a  hundred  years  ago  re¬ 

The  coming  of  dawn  erases  the  scene 
like  a  picture  upon  a  blackboard,  but  at 
night  it  again  returns.  Down  at  the  corner 
of  King  and  Marlborough  Streets  a  short 
stout  chimney  belches  fire  into  the  dark. 
The  Upton  brothers  are  at  work.  A  modern 
dwelling  stands  upon  the  spot  in  the  day 
but  at  night  it  vanishes,  and  in  its  stead  are 
the  Upton  shop  and  kiln.  The  years  roll 
back  to  1775;  East  Greenwich  pottery  is 
being  made  once  more. 

We  of  today  are  blind.  But  the  old  town 
can  look  into  the  kiln  and  can  see  the  Up¬ 
tons  working.  A  door  is  being  opened  and 
shut,  and  each  time  wild  bursts  of  flame 
shoot  out  into  the  darkness.  One  of  the 
brothers,  perhaps  it  is  Samuel,  is  using  a 
long  shovel-like  instrument  to  tend  the 
fires,  while  Isaac  is  moulding  rough  plates 
and  cups  from  dark  red  clay.  Pieces  from 
the  kiln  are  lying  about,  a  little  brighter 



red,  yet  still  quite  somber.  Crude  products 
they  are.  Plates  not  quite  even  on  the  bot¬ 
toms,  not  perfectly  symmetrical,  cups  with 
varying  handles,  all  unlike  except  in  color 
and  materials,  pans  for  milk  and  jugs, 
heavier  than  the  others,  though  they  were  all 
thick  enough.  Rough  products  made  for  a 
rough  people,  a  people  that  are  revolting 
against  finer  material  things,  revolting 
against  an  old  established  country  in  favor 
of  a  new  pioneer  civilization. 

For  this  is  the  year  of  the  Revolution, 
thirteen  little  Colonies  against  England,  and 
one  of  these  Colonies  is  Rhode  Island.  All 
imports  have  been  stopped  because  all 
trade  has  been  stopped.  There  is  no  Eng¬ 
lish  cloth,  no  English  brass-work,  no  fine 
English  porcelain.  But  the  Colonies  are 
making  cloth  in  the  homes,  men  are  ham¬ 
mering  out  iron  instead  of  brass,  and  here 
in  East  Greenwich  the  Uptons  are  making 
pottery.  They  little  dream  that,  in  future 
years,  their  pottery  will  be  famous.  They 
are  only  working  to  satisfy  a  demand  for 
their  product.  Families  need  cups,  saucers, 
plates,  many  of  them,  not  only  in  East 
Greenwich  but  up  and  down  the  bay.  This 
clay  material  is  so  coarse  it  will  not  hold 
together  well.  It  is  like  the  red  clay  flower 
pots  of  1929,  or  the  earthenware  jugs  and 
milkpans  of  the  1890’s,  and  breaks  easily. 
Orders  have  piled  upon  orders,  and  the 
Uptons  are  working  even  at  night. 

We  change  from  the  scene  of  the  kiln 
and  steal  a  look  inside  one  of  the  old 
houses.  The  table  is  set  with  these  red 
plates  and  cups  from  the  Upton  kiln,  not  a 
one  balanced  perfectly,  but  blending  in 
well  with  the  dark  wood  of  the  table  itself 
and  giving  back  in  red  glow  some  of  the 
warmth  of  the  hearth-fire.  These  then  form 
the  stock  of  this  household.  We  move  on 
to  another.  This  family  has  retired  early 
but  there  are  the  same  kind  of  plates  and 
cups  on  the  cupboard  shelves  beside  the 
pewter  in  the  kitchen.  House  after  house; 
it  is  all  alike.  The  Upton  crockery  has  re¬ 
placed  nearly  all  the  lighter  and  more 
graceful  pieces  of  English  china.  Every¬ 
where  there  is  this  same  blend  of  red,  this 
same  loyalty  to  native  manufacture. 

What  do  the  histories  say  about  East 
Greenwich  pottery  and  the  Uptons?  They 
say  that  in  1771  Thomas  Aldrich  sold  the 
lot  at  the  corner  of  King  and  Marlborough 

Streets  to  Isaac  and  Samuel  Upton.  The 
two  were  brothers,  both  having  been  born 
at  Bedford,  Mass.,  in  a  family  of  pottery- 
makers.  The  father  had  come  from  Dan¬ 
vers,  Mass.,  where  he  had  been  one  of  a 
locally  famous  group  of  glaziers,  and  had 
passed  on  his  trade  to  his  sons. 

For  many  years  the  family  had  lived  on 
Cape  Cod,  the  brothers  both  marrying  Yar¬ 
mouth  girls  although  Samuel  later  went  to 
Nantucket.  There  he  varied  the  trade  of 
potter  with  that  of  being  a  sailor  until  the 
war.  In  1775  he  came  to  East  Greenwich 
and  again  joined  his  brother  in  the  pot¬ 
ter’s  shop.  For  the  whole  space  of  the  war 
the  brothers  worked  together,  trying  hard 
to  supply  the  needs  of  a  whole  hay-side 
while  imports  were  at  a  standstill. 

They  dug  their  coarse  red  clay  from  de¬ 
posits  which  are  still  in  existence  at  Quid- 
nesett,  at  a  spot  called  Gould’s  Mount,  and 
carried  it  to  the  kiln  to  mould  it  for  firing. 
While  the  clay  was  coarse  and  the  product 
nearly  as  much  so,  the  demand  was  nearly 
more  than  they  could  supply.  We  can  be 
assured  that  while  the  colonists  did  not  pre¬ 
fer  this  rough  crockery  to  the  finer  prod¬ 
ucts  of  the  English  kilns,  in  this  period  of 
violent  anti-British  feeling  the  work  of  the 
Uptons  served  as  one  of  the  great  helps  to 
bolster  up  a  colonial  pride  and  courage. 

The  pottery  itself  was  to  be  found  in 
every  household,  but  little  has  been  pre¬ 
served.  The  very  coarseness  of  the  clay 
made  breaking  very  easy,  and  for  that  rea¬ 
son  the  greater  part  of  it  has  disappeared. 
To  the  colonists  the  contents  were  probably 
the  most  inviting  aspect  of  this  crude  crock¬ 
ery,  even  though  those  of  us  who  love  an¬ 
tiques  might  be  apt  to  see  beyond  the  prac¬ 
tical  side.  We  can  be  sure,  however,  that 
the  East  Greenwich  colonists  enjoyed  many 
good  cups  of  “Victory”  tea  and  as  many 
delicious  dinners  from  this  red  clay  pottery 
as  they  ever  did  from  finer  porcelain. 

A  few  specimens  of  the  pottery  now  exist 
in  the  possession  of  collectors  and  mu¬ 
seums,  even  though  the  great  bulk  of  it  is 
gone.  The  Uptons  themselves  left  East 
Greenwich  immediately  after  the  war.  In 
1783  Isaac,  who  had  moved  to  Berkley, 
Mass.,  deeded  his  share  of  the  shop  and 
kiln  to  Samuel  for  250  Spanish  milled  dol¬ 
lars.  However,  Samuel  did  not  remain  to 
take  full  possession  but  returned  to  Nan- 



tucket  to  begin  again  his  sailor’s  life.  Pot¬ 
tery  has  not  been  made  in  East  Greenwich 
from  that  time,  and  the  fame  of  East  Green¬ 
wich  pottery  remains  with  the  Uptons. 

There  was  another  potter  named  Joseph 
Wilson,  who  carried  on  business  at  the 
time  in  North  Providence.  But  his  work  was 
based  on  the  principles  of  glazing  taught 

by  the  Swiss  and  Germans  in  Philadelphia 
and  does  not  stand  out  so  individually  and 
so  typically  of  the  times  as  that  of  the 
Uptons.  They  were  colonists  and  their 
work  embodied  the  colonial  spirit  to  the 
very  last  degree.  Upon  this  distinctive 
quality  the  fame  of  East  Greenwich  pottery 
rests  today. 


IT  WAS  May  in  Rhode  Island,  the  first 
spring  after  the  dreadful  winter  of  ice 
and  snow  and  suffering  at  Valley  Forge. 
Three  long  years  had  the  men  of  Warren, 
Rhode  Island,  watched  and  planned  against 
and  fought  the  foe,  and  three  long  years  had 
the  Warren  women  knitted  and  sewed  and 
deprived  themselves  that  the  hardships  of 
the  Continental  soldiers  might  be  lessened. 

A  month  before,  the  French  alliance  had 
been  signed,  and  many  believed  that,  be¬ 
cause  of  this,  the  war  would  be  over,  but 
the  wiser  ones  knew  that  the  end  was  still 
far  off. 

In  1776,  there  were  only  1,005  inhabi¬ 
tants,  including  slaves,  in  the  town  of  War¬ 
ren,  and  with  the  departure  of  volunteers 
to  join  Washington’s  army,  but  a  very  small 
fighting  force  remained.  However,  the  few 
men  that  were  still  available  planned  an 
expedition  against  the  British  forces  in 
Rhode  Island.  They  had  built  seventy 
whale-boats,  and  these,  together  with  the 
re-conditioned  row-galley  “Washington,” 
lay  in  the  Kickemuit  River  in  readiness  for 
the  attack  upon  the  British  stronghold.  In 
addition  to  the  boats,  a  great  supply  of  tar, 
pitch  and  powder  was  available  for  use  in 
the  bold  exploit. 

They  believed  that  the  expedition  would 
succeed,  for  the  utmost  secrecy  had  been 
preserved.  True,  everyone  in  Warren  knew 
of  the  idea — even  Mr.  Holland,  the  English¬ 
man.  But  everyone  in  town  was  known  to 
be  loyal.  And  Mr.  Holland  was  loyal — he 
was  the  schoolmaster  and  a  trusted  person¬ 

But  someone  transmitted  the  secret  to 
General  Pigot,  the  commander  of  the  Brit¬ 
ish  forces  in  Rhode  Island.  There  was  a 
“Watch  House”  on  a  high  bank  of  the 

Kickemuit  River,  yet  for  once  it  must  have 
lacked  a  watchman,  for  on  the  25th  of  May 
a  body  of  troops  which  Pigot  had  des¬ 
patched  from  Newport  to  Bristol  marched 
on  to  Warren  and  took  the  town  completely 
by  surprise. 

There  were  British  soldiers  and  their 
cohorts,  the  Hessian  mercenaries,  five  hun¬ 
dred  strong  in  all.  Under  Lieutenant- 
Colonel  Campbell  they  at  once  began  a  sys¬ 
tematic  tour  of  destruction  and  pillage.  The 
majority  hurried  to  the  Kickemuit  River, 
where  the  patriots’  boats  lay  in  readiness  for 
the  planned  attack  upon  the  British.  These 
they  burned,  together  with  the  “Washing¬ 
ton.”  Continuing  their  riotous  invasion, 
they  also  burned  the  Baptist  Church,  the 
Baptist  parsonage,  and  other  buildings.  And 
to  make  a  good  job  of  it,  they  blew  up  the 
powder  house  and  burned  all  the  stores  of 
pitch  and  tar.  Who  could  have  betrayed  the 
plans  of  the  patriots?  No  one  knows. 

While  the  soldiers  were  preparing  to 
burn  the  grist-mill,  the  miller  cried,  “Spare 
the  mill,  brothers!” 

“Brothers?”  repeated  one  of  the  soldiers. 
“Do  you  call  us  that?  If  we  are  your  broth¬ 
ers,  we  shall  do  you  a  favor  and  take  you 
out  of  this  nest  of  rebels.”  Accordingly  he 
signalled  to  his  comrades  and  the  miller  was 
taken  away  as  a  prisoner.  Perhaps  the  mil¬ 
ler  was  the  traitor. 

However,  it  is  more  than  likely  that  Mr. 
Holland  was  not  as  loyal  as  his  fellow 
townsmen  had  believed.  When  the  British 
soldiers  were  leaving  the  town,  they  stopped 
and  cheered  loudly  when  they  reached  his 
house.  He  immediately  came  out  and  joined 
them,  and  with  them  disappeared  from  War¬ 
ren  forever. 

The  British  retreat  was  a  brilliant  one. 
Colonel  Campbell  feared  that  other  coun- 



ties  might  come  to  Warren’s  aid,  yet  he 
wanted  to  leave  a  last  touch  of  British  pomp 
with  the  despoiled  patriots.  Heading  the 
line  were  the  prisoners  with  their  guards. 
Behind  them  marched  the  Hessians,  wear¬ 
ing  great  boots  and  huge  fur  caps,  the  boots 
filled  with  plunder  of  every  description. 
Following  were  the  British  in  their  scarlet 
coats,  their  gold  lace,  their  three-cornered 
hats,  and  their  small-clothes  and  buckled 
shoes.  Last  of  all  marched  Colonel  Camp¬ 
bell.  Drums  were  beating,  flags  were  flying, 
and  it  was  a  very  gay  affair. 

But  the  Colonel  was  not  last,  for  far 
behind  straggled  a  diminutive  drummer. 
His  drum  was  very  large, — he  was  very 
tired,— -and  he  was  very  full,  not  of  the  clear 
water  from  the  spring  of  Massasoit,  but  of 
good  West  India  rum.  As  he  passed  in 
front  of  the  hotel  with  faltering  steps,  a 
group  of  women,  among  them  a  young  girl 
named  Nellie  Easterbrooks,  noticed  him. 
These  women  were  excited  and  worked  up 
to  the  last  pitch  of  anger  because  of  the 
brutal  treatment  they  had  been  forced  to 
undergo  from  the  insolent  invaders.  All 
sorts  of  outrages  had  been  committed  by 
the  Hessians  and  British  while  they  were 
accumulating  plunder,  including  one  in¬ 
stance  where  a  group  of  bullies  forced  a 
woman  to  hand  over  all  her  best  china  while 
they  deliberately  broke  it  piece  by  piece. 
Nellie  Easterbrooks  had  been  listening  to 

the  stories  told  by  these  women.  She  was  a 
small  girl,  but  she  had  a  fierce  impetuosity 
backed  up  by  daring. 

The  drummer  might  have  gotten  by  safely 
had  Nellie  not  seen  him.  She  sprang  up, 
stirring  the  group  of  women  to  action. 
“Let’s  take  that  man!”  she  cried.  Running 
inside  the  hotel,  she  seized  a  tall  brass 
candlestick  and  rushed  with  it  into  the 
street.  In  a  wild  burst  of  anger,  the  other 
women  followed  her. 

She  pointed  the  candlestick,  glistening  in 
the  sun,  full  at  the  drummer  and  com¬ 
manded  him  to  halt.  White  with  fear,  the 
man  threw  up  his  hands,  crying,  “Don’t  fire, 
ladies,  I  surrender!” 

Women  wore  aprons  in  those  days,  and 
every  one  of  those  present  tore  hers  to 
strips  and  bound  him  with  them.  Then  they 
dragged  their  bewildered  captive  into  the 
hotel  and  locked  him  into  a  closet  there. 

It  is  said  that  he  was  very  glad  to  be  cap¬ 
tured,  for  his  drum  was  getting  extremely 
heavy  and  he  was  having  great  difficulty  in 
maintaining  a  soldierly  bearing.  One  story 
has  it  that  he  was  later  exchanged  for  an 
American  prisoner,  while  another  has  it 
that  he  remained  in  Warren  and  married 
one  of  the  women  there.  If  he  did  marry  a 
Warren  girl,  it  was  surely  not  Nellie  Easter¬ 
brooks.  She  married  one  Nathaniel  Hicks 
West  of  Bristol,  who  was  a  true  patriot  and 
not  a  subject  of  King  George. 


The  Revolution  bred  scores  of  leaders  in 
both  the  military  and  naval  fields,  mas¬ 
ters  of  merchantmen  who  were  immediately 
fitted  through  their  long  seafaring  experi¬ 
ence  to  take  charge  of  privateers  and  men- 
of-war,  and  men  of  the  soil  whose  long 
struggle  in  building  up  farms,  plantations, 
and  accompanying  industries  well  fitted 
them  for  the  rigors  of  life  in  military  serv¬ 
ice.  Skilled  leaders  there  were  of  every 
sort,  but  in  one  man,  the  subject  of  this 
brief  sketch,  there  was  the  very  unusual 
combination  of  consummate  skill  and  lead¬ 
ership  in  both  the  naval  and  military  fields. 

Born  the  ninth  in  a  large  family  of  four¬ 
teen  children,  he  was  early  thrown  upon  his 
own  resources  at  the  age  of  twelve  when  his 

father  died.  The  family  lived  in  Bristol, 
however,  and  it  was  only  natural  for  Silas 
to  turn  to  the  sea  for  both  an  education  and 
livelihood.  Starting  as  a  cabin  boy  and 
making  the  most  of  his  keen  wits  and 
hardy,  rugged  constitution,  he  advanced 
rapidly,  soon  having  his  own  command.  In 
1772  he  married  a  Miss  Richmond  of  an 
old  Colonial  family  and  built  a  fine  home 
in  Providence  out  of  his  seaman’s  earnings. 
As  a  boy  he  had  known  the  trade  of  a 
stone-mason,  but  lucrative  as  it  was,  he  had 
abandoned  it  for  the  sea. 

After  settling  in  Providence,  he  turned 
to  a  bit  of  mercantile  speculation,  special¬ 
izing  in  lumber.  But  he  had  hardly 
started  in  this  type  of  occupation  when 



the  Revolution  broke  out.  At  once  men 
everywhere  began  to  train  for  war,  carrying 
into  the  various  branches  of  military  service 
the  training  of  their  separate  professions 
or  occupations.  Talbot  and  some  compan¬ 
ions  hired  a  loft  in  an  old  sugar  house, 
collected  a  small  company  of  men,  and 
began  some  earnest  drilling  under  the  able 
tutelage  of  a  runaway  Scotch  drum-major. 
As  a  result,  when  the  Rhode  Island  regi¬ 
ments  were  being  formed,  he  was  given  an 
immediate  captaincy  and  saw  a  little  serv¬ 
ice  right  away. 

Soon  he  went  on  to  New  York  with  the 
army  and  joined  the  American  forces  along 
the  Hudson.  The  British  fleet  under  Lord 
Howe  was  then  anchored  in  New  York  har¬ 
bor  and  the  lower  Hudson,  providing  a 
constant  threat  to  the  American  batteries. 
Then  it  was  that  Talbot  left  the  army  to 
take  service  with  what  American  navy  there 
was.  He  was  given  command  of  a  fire  ship 
and  ordered  to  proceed  up  the  Hudson 
some  fifteen  miles  or  so,  anchor  and  await 
instructions.  During  the  three  days  he  lay 
in  waiting  some  of  the  British  vessels  sepa¬ 
rated  from  the  fleet  and  strung  themselves 
out  along  the  Hudson.  This  was  all  that 
was  necessary.  Talbot  immediately  received 
orders  to  proceed  against  them.  He  selected 
one  large  warship  that  lay  about  seven 
miles  away  as  the  object  of  attack  and 
began  his  preparations. 

All  during  the  evening  his  crew  labored 
to  put  the  fire  ship  in  readiness.  She 
was  filled  with  all  sorts  of  combustibles, 
soaked  with  turpentine  and  trains  of  pow¬ 
der  laid  along  her  deck.  One  daring  sea¬ 
man  was  appointed  to  strip  down  and  lie 
flat  on  her  deck  with  a  match  in  hand  to 
fire  the  powder  at  the  last  moment.  At 
two  o’clock  in  the  morning  the  anchor  was 
hoisted  and  the  ship  drifted  down  stream. 
Captain  Talbot  sighted  the  British  ship 
through  the  mist  and  steered  for  her  broad¬ 
side.  The  attack  was  totally  unexpected  by 
the  enemy,  and  the  fire  ship  was  upon  them 
and  grappled  fast  before  they  were  half 

It  is  easy  to  picture  jthe  chaos  that 
ensued.  The  flaming  fireship  proved  a  fine 
torch  to  light  the  large  64-gun  warship. 
The  latter’s  spars  and  rigging  were  silhou¬ 
etted  in  a  lurid  glow  that  could  be  seen 

for  miles.  Men  were  running  about  her 
decks,  some  trying  to  battle  the  fire,  others 
jumping  headlong  into  the  river.  Mean¬ 
while  Captain  Talbot  and  his  audacious 
crew  had  tumbled  into  a  small  boat  and 
were  rowing  away  from  the  scene  as  rap¬ 
idly  as  possible,  their  mission  accom¬ 
plished.  Before  they  reached  safety,  other 
British  ships  had  come  to  the  aid  of  their 
stricken  companion  and  shot  from  their 
small  arms  and  guns  were  flying  about  the 
little  American  skiff.  It  was  hit  but  twice, 
however,  and  all  reached  shore  safely.  But 
the  fireship  had  done  its  own  damage  where 
the  enemy’s  guns  had  not.  Talbot,  who  had 
been  last  to  leave,  was  terribly  burned,  his 
clothes  charred  completely  and  his  eye¬ 
sight  almost  gone. 

Once  on  shore,  the  crew  carried  him  to 
various  homes  for  aid  and  finally  laid  him 
in  a  widow’s  cabin  and  covered  him  with  a 
blanket.  And  in  such  a  condition  well 
might  he  have  died  had  not  two  American 
officers,  one  a  doctor,  been  passing  by. 
They  had  him  removed  to  a  hospital;  and, 
though  he  suffered  for  a  long  while  and 
was  blind  in  the  meantime,  he  recovered 

The  British  ship  had  been  pulled  away 
from  the  fireship,  badly  damaged,  but  the 
best  result  of  the  whole  enterprise  was  that 
the  British  fleet  withdrew  to  below  New 
York.  Talbot  was  highly  commended  for 
his  daring,  given  a  vote  of  thanks  by  Con¬ 
gress,  made  a  major,  and  commended  to 
General  Washington. 

Once  recovered,  he  took  joint  command 
of  the  American  forces  in  Mud  Island  fort 
on  the  Delaware  River.  Here  a  small  force 
was  being  beseiged  by  a  large  force  of 
British,  part  stationed  in  an  opposing  fort 
and  part  stationed  in  warships.  The  Mud 
Island  fort  was  raked  with  a  heavy  cross¬ 
fire,  but  it  was  able  to  hold  its  own  until 
a  large  armed  transport  was  brought 
directly  against  it.  Under  the  broadsides 
from  this  ship  the  American  force  had  to 
evacuate  its  position.  But  this  was  not  done 
while  Major  Talbot  was  on  the  scene.  He 
had  fought  for  hours  with  a  shattered  wrist 
and  only  forced  to  retire  when  another  piece 
of  shot  struck  him  in  the  hip. 

Again  he  was  in  the  hospital  and  again 
he  received  congratulations  all  round  for 



his  gallant  services.  He  received  an  audi¬ 
ence  with  Washington,  was  highly  com¬ 
mended  by  his  superior,  and  sent  home  for 
a  leave  of  absence  to  Rhode  Island. 

In  1776,  recovered  again,  he  was  with 
the  American  forces  in  the  battle  of  Rhode 
Island.  It  was  he  who  secured  the  86  small 
boats  that  General  Sullivan’s  army  used  in 
the  crossing  from  the  mainland  to  the 
island;  it  was  he  who  was  sent  on  a  lone 
reconnoitering  trip  down  the  island;  and 
it  was  he  who  finally  checked  the  British  to 
cover  the  retreat  of  the  Americans  from  the 
island  after  the  failure  of  Sullivan’s 

From  this  exploit  he  jumped  to  action  on 
the  water  once  more,  outfitting  a  sloop  and 
under  the  cover  of  darkness  capturing  the 
heavily  armed  Pigot  galley  that  lay  in  a 
dangerous  position  at  the  mouth  of  the 
Seakonnet  River.  For  this  great  bit  of  dar¬ 
ing  he  was  made  a  colonel.  Twice  more  he 
tried  similar  enterprises  with  the  sloop, 
named  “Hawk,”  but  was  unsuccessful  due 
to  circumstances  beyond  his  control.  Then 
he  was  formally  transferred  to  the  navy 
and  ordered  to  guard  the  coast  from  Long 
Island  to  Nantucket. 

But  though  he  had  a  commission,  he  had 
no  ship.  Congress  was  too  poor  to  supply 
him  with  one,  so  he  outfitted  a  small  sloop, 
named  “Argo,”  and  took  command.  The 
very  inferiority  of  his  little  vessel  in  size 
and  armament  proved  to  its  advantage,  for  it 
had  great  speed  and  was  fine  for  swift 
dashes  upon  the  enemy.  He  trained  his  crew 
to  the  utmost  efficiency  and  kept  them  at 
the  pitch  of  excitement.  In  May,  1779,  he 
set  out  with  60  men  in  this  wide-sterned 
vessel,  so  clumsy  with  its  high  bulkhead 
and  only  a  tiller  to  steer  by.  But  clumsy 
or  not,  the  “Argo”  soon  gained  a  great 
reputation  under  his  command.  She  had 
many  skirmishes  with  the  British,  drove 
many  of  their  vessels  out  of  the  harbors 
along  the  coast,  and  finally  had  a  success¬ 
ful  fight  with  the  Tory  privateer,  “King 
George,”  which  had  been  doing  much  dam¬ 
age.  Under  the  skillful  leadership  of  Cap¬ 
tain  Talbot,  it  took  only  one  broadside  to 
make  the  larger  vessel  surrender.  Later  in 
the  year  this  commander  fought  for  four 
and  one-half  hours  with  a  large  English 
warship.  The  vessels  were  within  pistol 

shot  of  each  other,  and  he  had  his  speaking 
trumpet  pieced  twice  and  his  coat-tails  shot 
off.  When  the  mainmast  of  the  British  ves¬ 
sel  crashed  down,  she  surrendered.  But  by 
then  the  “Argo”  herself  was  sinking.  With 
plugging  in  her  hull  to  stop  the  gaping 
holes  she  was  kept  afloat  and  was  able  to 
accompany  her  prize  to  port.  After  this 
engagement  the  “Argo”  was  taken  back 
by  her  original  owners.  With  her,  Captain 
Talbot  had  captured  five  enemy  ships  and 
three  hundred  prisoners. 

Again  he  received  accord  from  all  sides, 
letters  from  Congress  and  from  various 
commanders.  Again  he  was  promised  a 
ship  but  finally  had  to  procure  one  him¬ 
self.  In  this  ship,  the  “George  Washing¬ 
ton,”  his  fortunes  turned.  After  about  two 
engagements  he  was  captured  by  a  large 
man-of-war,  beginning  for  him  a  long 
period  of  imprisonment.  For  a  while  he 
was  on  that  “hell-ship,”  the  New  Jersey 
prison  galley,  then  kept  for  a  while  in  the 
“Old  Sugar  House”  in  New  York.  From 
there  he  was  carried  on  a  terrible  seven 
weeks’  winter  voyage  on  board  the  prison 
ship  “Yarmouth”  and  taken  to  Dartmoor 
prison,  England.  From  here  he  made  three 
bold  attempts  to  escape,  but  was  caught 
every  time  and  severely  punished.  Finally 
he  was  released  but  left  destitute  in 

By  being  exchanged  for  a  British  pris¬ 
oner  he  was  sent  to  France,  secured  help 
from  Benjamin  Franklin,  and  at  last  set 
out  for  America  again.  The  brig  he  was  on 
was  captured  but  his  kind-hearted  captor, 
learning  his  story,  put  him  on  another  ship 
bound  for  New  York.  In  1782  he  reached 
New  York  and,  after  resting,  proceeded  to 
Providence  once  more,  after  having  been 
gone  more  than  two  years.  Quarrels  over 
his  merit  as  an  officer  so  disgusted  him  that 
he  sold  all  his  Providence  property  and 
moved  to  New  York,  buying  the  confiscated 
estate  of  Sir  William  Johnson.  Here  he 
engaged  in  farming,  until  he  was  recalled 
in  1794  to  command  the  frigate  “Consti¬ 
tution”  in  the  short  Algerian  war.  Though 
his  service  was  again  as  colorful  and  com¬ 
mendable  as  before,  difficulties  with  the  war 
department  over  his  rank  made  him  impul¬ 
sively  resign  his  commission  and  retire 
from  the  navy  forever. 



Thus  for  the  rest  of  his  life  he  lived  in 
retirement  upon  his  farm.  He  was  always 
a  gentleman  in  the  true  sense  of  the  word, 

a  born  leader,  an  ardent  patriot,  and,  most 
important  of  all  to  us,  a  Rhode  Islander. 
He  died  in  1813  in  New  York. 


There  is  an  old  house  in  Rhode  Island 
that  intrigues  many  persons.  It  is  some¬ 
times  referred  to  as  the  old  “Garrison 
House,”  sometimes  as  “The  Old  Stone 
Chimney  House,”  but  many  like  best  to 
think  of  it  by  the  name  that  an  old  paper 
gave  it,  which  is  “The  Splendid  Mansion 
of  Eleazar  Arnold .” 

If  you  leave  the  trolley  at  “Loafers’ 
Tree”  and  walk  along  the  “Great  Road” 
toward  Quinsnicket  in  the  town  of  Lincoln, 
the  first  impression  of  the  ancient  house  is 
that  it  is  common  and  uninteresting.  But 
go  to  the  north  end  of  the  building  and 
gaze  upon  the  great  stone  chimney  in  order 
to  find  the  picturesque  and  ancient  aspect 
of  the  “Mansion.” 

The  late  Mr.  Preserved  Arnold,  in  whose 
family  this  estate  was  for  the  better  part  of 
three  centuries,  said  that  no  one  but  Indians 
and  Arnolds  had  ever  owned  the  land,  and 
that  when  this  house  was  built  people  came 
from  miles  around  to  see  “The  Splendid 
Mansion  of  Eleazar  Arnold.” 

Mr.  Arnold  further  said,  that  the  walls 
of  the  house  were  interlined  with  flint  to 
guard  against  possible  attacks  of  the  In¬ 
dians.  He  told,  also,  of  the  three  men  who 
built  the  great  chimney.  The  first  man  who 
worked  on  it  died  before  it  was  completed. 
A  second  worker,  taking  up  the  task  that 
the  first  one  laid  down,  also  died  suddenly 
before  his  work  was  finished.  The  third 
man,  with  courage,  completed  it,  all  the 
work  being  so  well  done  that  the  chimney 
stands  today  a  monument  to  its  three 

Just  a  little  farther  along  the  “Great 
Road”  one  turns  into  the  grove  of  Quin¬ 
snicket — in  Indian  language,  “Place  of 
Many  Stones.”  In  this  lovely  glen  King 
Philip  brought,  each  winter,  his  Queen,  his 
son  and  the  royal  household.  One  may  still 
see  a  few  stones  marking  the  site  of  the 
Queen’s  stone  wigwam  on  the  bank  of  the 


brook.  It  is  said  that  Philip,  from  the  top 
of  the  great  flat  rock  overhanging  the  gold¬ 
fish  pond,  would  harangue  his  warriors 
gathered  at  the  base,  and  it  was  at  this  spot 
that  the  Pierce  massacre  was  planned  in 
1676.  The  Indians  preferred  this  well- 
sheltered  glen  at  Quinsnicket  to  Mount 
Hope  in  the  severe  weather. 

There  are  many  lovely  legends  of  this 
neighborhood,  the  most  romantic  of  which 
has  been  told  elsewhere.  This  was  the  story 
of  the  beautiful  Betsey  Whipple,  who  lived 
in  Cumberland,  but  who  visited  at  “The 
Old  Stone-Chimney  House”  under  whose 
south  wall  may  still  be  seen  the  bed  of 
lilies-of-the-valley  over  which  she  and  her 
lover  stood.  For  no  less  a  personage  than 
the  Vicomte  Rochambeau,  son  of  the  Gen¬ 
eral  of  that  name,  courted  Betsey.  She 
sent  him  away  but  accepted,  later,  his  part¬ 
ing  gift  of  his  magnificent  war-horse.  This 
lady  lived  many  years  after  the  close  of  the 
Revolution.  You  may  still  read  her  will, 
on  file  in  the  archives  of  the  Cumberland 
Town  Hall. 

Mr.  Arnold  told  of  another  incident  in 
her  life,  less  romantic  than  her  love-affair 
with  the  younger  Rochambeau,  but  still  of 
interest.  It  seems  that  more  than  one  man 
aspired  to  her  hand,  and  one  in  particular 
was  very  persistent.  Again  and  again  had 
Betsey  Whipple  said  him  “Nay,”  and  again 
and  again  had  he  renewed  his  suit.  Late  one 
evening  she  allowed  him  to  escort  her  home 
from  some  social  gathering,  and  crossing 
the  dark  fields  to  her  father’s  house  they 
found  their  way  by  the  feeble  light  of  a 
lantern.  For  the  last  time  the  enamoured 
swain  asked  Betsey  to  marry  him  and  once 
again  the  girl  refused  him.  Naturally  very 
disappointed  and  annoyed,  the  young  man 
took  his  revenge  upon  her.  “Betsey,”  he 
said,  “since  thee  doth  prefer  to  walk  alone 
through  life,  thee  hath  best  begin  to-night.” 
And  so  saying,  he  turned  on  his  heel  and 
left  her  alone  to  stumble  over  the  dark  path 



through  the  fields  to  her  father’s  house. 
For  he,  in  his  anger,  took  the  lantern  with 
him ! 

All  the  rest  of  her  life  Betsey  Whipple 
told  that  story  to  her  family,  but  she  would 
never  disclose  the  man’s  name.  Her  rela¬ 
tives  were  always  very  desirous  of  ascer¬ 
taining  who  the  man  was,  but  she  remained 
magnanimously  loyal  and  would  not  tell 
them.  Finally,  when  she  was  ninety-five 
years  old,  and  dying,  one  of  her  nieces  bent 
over  her.  “Auntie,”  she  said  coaxingly, 
“ who  did  you  say  it  was  that  used  you  so 
unmannerly  that  night  you  refused  to  marry 

The  old  lady  opened  her  once  beautiful 
eyes,  and  with  a  last  twinkle  in  them  said: 
“I  did  never  tell  thee,  my  dear!”  and  died 
with  her  secret  intact. 

The  “Splendid  Mansion  of  Eleazar  Ar¬ 
nold”  does  not  look  very  splendid  now.  It 
stands  with  boarded  windows,  the  highway 
encroaches  on  its  lawn  and  naught  remains 
of  its  former  state  but  the  magnificent  stone 
chimney  on  whose  hearth,  alas,  no  great 
logs  now  burn.  But  the  deserted  house  has 
a  truly  splendid  neighbor.  This  is  the  old- 
seam-face  granite  house  standing  almost 
opposite  the  Butterfly  Factory,  just  before 
you  turn  into  Quinsnicket.  Many  stories 
have  been  told  of  the  furore  for  lotteries  in 
years  long  past,  how  individuals  and 
churches  even  raised  money  in  this  way. 

Some  time  previous  to  1807  a  young  man 
by  the  name  of  Stephen  Smith  was  madly 
in  love  with  an  ambitious  girl  who  prom¬ 
ised  to  marry  him  if  he  would  build  her  a 
house  “better  than  any  other  in  the  county.” 
So  Mr.  Smith  bought  a  lucky  ticket  in  the 
Louisiana  Lottery  and,  fortunately,  won 
$40,000.00.  This  was  a  fortune  in  those 
days,  and  he  very  happily  set  about  build¬ 
ing  in  good,  substantial  granite  from  across 
the  fields,  the  realization  of  his  dreams. 

Slowly  the  beautiful  structure  rose  and 
its  lovely  line  of  roof  still  delights  the  eye, 
representing  as  it  does  the  very  last  of  the 
Colonial  period  of  architecture.  It  was 
used  as  a  model  for  the  “Rhode  Island 

House”  at  the  St.  Louis  Exposition.  Young 
Smith  sent  across  the  ocean  for  marbles 
for  his  mantels  and  hung  his  fiancee’s  pic¬ 
ture  on  the  wall  in  a  golden  frame.  And 
when  all  was  done,  and  the  dream  of  the 
“most  beautiful  house  in  the  county”  was 
realized,  alas  his  money  was  gone,  and  the 
young  lady  promptly  refused  to  marry 
him!  Stephen  Smith  remained  a  bachelor, 
and  lived  out  his  blameless  life  in  a  small¬ 
er  house  near  by,  happier,  we  hope,  with 
his  books  and  his  flowers  and  the  compan¬ 
ionship  of  his  relatives  than  he  would  have 
been  with  the  mercenary  lady  who  “threw 
him  over.” 

From  the  pages  of  recorded  history  we 
find  these  facts  about  this  historic  neighbor¬ 
hood  which  should  be  visited  by  everyone. 
“The  highway  on  which  the  Arnold  Man¬ 
sion  stands  led  to  Mendon  and  thence  to 
other  towns  in  Massachusetts,  and  was  the 
only  traveled  road  through  the  section  in 
the  early  days.  At  the  time  when  the  build¬ 
ing  was  erected  the  clearing  extended  to  the 
east,  south  and  west,  while  to  the  north¬ 
westward,  north  and  northeastward  the 
primeval  forest  almost  touched  its  walls. 
To  protect  this  exposed  side  of  the  house 
from  the  fire-arrows  which  lurking  Indians 
might  direct  against  it,  the  house  was  built 
with  the  northerly  side  of  stone,  and  orig¬ 
inally  the  shingles  on  the  roof  were  covered 
with  mortar. 

The  “Butterfly  Factory”  was  built  in 
1811,  by  Stephen  H.  Smith,  who  also  built 
“Hearthside,”  and  the  dam  which  forms 
Quinsnicket  Lake  in  the  Lincoln  woods. 
The  “Butterfly  Factory”  is  so-called  be¬ 
cause  of  the  curious  coloring  of  two  stones 
placed  side  by  side  in  the  wall,  these  stones 
having  the  appearance  of  a  butterfly.  The 
bell  which  formerly  hung  in  the  belfry 
bore  the  date  of  1563  (usually  erroneously 
given  as  1263)  and  is  said  to  have  original¬ 
ly  hung  in  an  English  convent,  and  later  to 
have  been  on  the  British  frigate  “Guer- 
riere”  at  the  time  of  its  capture  by  the 
United  States  ship  “Constitution”  during 
the  War  of  1812. 




A  New  England  spring  time  lay  upon  the 
Rhode  Island  countryside.  A  young 
French  officer  in  the  uniform  of  the  Regi¬ 
ment  of  Bourbonnais  rode  from  the  camps 
in  North  Providence  over  the  pleasant, 
rustic  roads,  unaccompanied  by  orderly  or 
servant.  At  times  he  rode  fast,  as  though 
impatient  to  reach  his  destination;  again, 
seeming  to  fall  into  deep  thought,  he  pro¬ 
ceeded  at  a  snail’s  pace. 

The  breeze  swayed  the  tall  grass  in  the 
old  Pond  Tavern  meadow,  and  he  idly  re¬ 
called  seeing,  last  year,  a  few  old  men  work¬ 
ing  in  that  hay-field  where,  in  times  of 
peace,  it  had  been  its  owner’s  boast  that 
forty  men  could  swing  their  scythes  to¬ 
gether.  The  rider  presently  drew  near  the 
Quaker  Meeting  House,  in  what  is  now  the 
town  of  Lincoln,  and  his  eyes  dwelt  on  the 
ancient  stone  which  still  stands,  conven¬ 
iently  tilted,  for  the  use  of  equestrians. 
His  reflections,  we  may  presume,  were  senti¬ 
mental,  as  “  ’Twas  here  I  saw  her  first.  She 
was  dismounting  from  her  horse  at  that 
curious  old  horse-block,  as  people  call  it 
here,  and  I  seized  a  fortunate  chance  to 
spring  from  my*  saddle  and  help  her  down 
ere  her  lazy  servant  could  reach  her  side.” 

Here  his  eyes  roamed  beyond  the  old 
stepping-stone  to  the  first  house  beyond  the 
Meeting  House,  called,  in  those  days,  “The 
Splendid  Mansion  of  Eleazar  Arnold.” 
This  mansion  was  the  destination  of  the 
rider,  and  he  scanned  the  landscape  anxi¬ 
ously.  Yes,  there  was  Mistress  Betsey 
Whipple,  in  her  uncle’s  garden,  as  he  had 
both  hoped  and  feared  to  find  her.  In  a 
moment  the  beautiful  great  black  horse, 
“Le  Due,”  and  his  rider  were  at  the  gate 
of  the  mansion,  the  rider  dismounted  at 
her  side,  while  a  servant  took  the  charger 
and  fastened  him  in  the  shade  of  a  con¬ 
venient  maple  tree.  The  girl  looked  up  at 
the  soldier  from  the  bed  of  lilies-of-the- 
valley  that  she  was  tending.  Her  face  was, 
perhaps,  of  a  slight  pallor. 

“Mistress  Betsey,”  said  the  young  officer, 
“I  recall  that  last  year  I  helped  you  plant 
those  lilies,  and  now  I  see  them  blooming 
here.  Time,  indeed,  passes  quickly.” 

“And  now  thee  comes  to  say  goodby,” 
said  the  maiden  with  a  clear,  direct  look, 
“and  soon,  victory  won  over  our  foes,  thee 
will  be  returning  to  thy  native  country.” 

“You  speak  of  a  speedy  victory,”  said 
the  soldier  gravely,  “but  ’tis  now  five  years 
and  more  since  Concord  and  Lexington.” 

“God  give  us  grace,”  responded  the  maid, 
a  noble  expression  on  her  young  face,  “to 
keep  steadfast  five  years  more,  if  need  be; 
but  we  have  great  faith,  hereabouts,  that 
our  General,  with  thine,  will  soon  change 
‘this  winter  of  our  discontent  and  make  it 
glorious  summer,’  as  some  words  my  uncle 
read  me  from  one  of  Master  Shakespeare’s 
books  come  haltingly  back  to  me.” 

“Betsey,”  burst  out  the  handsome  youth, 
irrelevantly,  “in  that  short  gown  of  thine, 
as  white  as  milk;  with  that  fichu  of  snow 
and  your  little  cap  banding  your  face  until 
I  can  scarce  see  a  half-inch  of  your  gold 
hair;  Betsey,  you  look  to  me  like  a  little 
holy  virgin! 

“Nay,”  he  rushed  on,  “look  not  so 
shocked  nor  yet  rebuke  me,  for  of  such  in¬ 
deed  you  are!  Do  I  not  remember  that  first 
night  after  I  had  helped  you  dismount  at 
the  Meeting  House,  and  on  your  uncle’s  in¬ 
vitation  afterward,  supped  here,  that  you 
would  not  sing  for  us,  because,  forsooth,  it 
was  the  Sabbath  night? 

“Thee  are  at  once  a  merry,  happy  girl 
and  yet  a  little  saint ! 

“Betsey,  I  have  remarked  thee  well,  and 
at  all  times  and  places.  Thee  was  as  sweet 
and  graceful  in  thy  uncle’s  kitchen  that 
night  thee  served  two  hungry  soldiers  with 
the  little  cakes  made  of  meal  and  water  and 
toasted  by  the  fire  in  some  fashion  that 
made  them  sweet  as  fine  wheat  bread  to 
Frenchmen,  as  thee  was  that  night  thee  sat 
in  state  by  the  great  Washington’s  side  in 
Hacker’s  Hall,  in  Providence;  thou  art  al¬ 
ways  the  same,  adorable! 

“Nay,  then,  ma  chere  amie”  he  rushed 
on,  “thee  wouldst  never  tell  me  what  said 
the  great  man  to  thee  that  night  when  thee 
smiled  and  blushed  and  replied  to  him  so 



The  maid  desperately  seized  her  oppor¬ 
tunity  to  divert  him  from  the  theme  he 
seemed  bent  on  pursuing,  and  laughing  a 
gay,  sweet  laugh,  said:  “Thee  may  remem¬ 
ber  that  on  that  night — it  was  the  13th  of 
last  March,  I  do  remember,  for  ’twas  only 
this  morning  that  I  was  looking  again  at  my 
little  card  of  invitation  to  that  ball — I  had 
such  a  cold  and  sore  throat  that  I  could 
scarce  speak  aloud,  and  would,  indeed,  have 
stayed  at  home  but  for  my  uncle’s  express 
wish  to  the  contrary.  Well,  General  Wash¬ 
ington,  noticing  my  plight,  was  so  kind  as 
to  say  that  he  was  often  troubled  himself 
with  sore  throat  but  always  applied  a  rem¬ 
edy  that  he  found  beneficial.  He  said  he 
would  recommend  it  to  me  but  for  the  cer¬ 
tainty  that  I  would  never  use  it.” 

“And  what  replied  you  to  that?”  in¬ 
quired  the  young  man,  momentarily 

“I  said  that  I  would  certainly  try  any 
remedy  that  General  Washington  recom¬ 
mended.  And  the  General  said,  ‘Well,  then, 
the  remedy  is  this:  Apply  onions  and  mo¬ 
lasses,  boiled  together.  They  have  cured 
me,  many  a  time.’  ” 

They  laughed,  the  careless  laughter  of 
youth,  but  in  a  moment,  the  soldier  growing 
sober  again,  said:  “But  this  is  no  time  for 
laughter.  Betsey,  I  love  thee,  and  if  duty 
should  call  me  away  from  thee,  and  I 
should  survive  the  glorious  campaign  which 
but  for  thee  I  so  eagerly  anticipate,  tell  me 
that  thee  will  some  day  cross  the  ocean  with 
me,  and  grace  my  home  and  make  my 
father  and  myself  the  happiest  of  mortals.” 

The  maid’s  lip  quivered,  then,  with  an 
effort:  “Sir,  this  day  while  working  in  my 
garden  I  found  a  curious  little  object  which 
had  lain  a  century  in  our  soil  until  a  spade 
upturned  it.  ’Twas  lost,  a  hundred  years 
ago  by  my  great-great-great-aunt,  Nancy. 
’Tis  a  great  jest  with  our  family  that  Aunt 
Nancy  was  so  slow  that  she  was  once  a 
year  in  making  a  night-cap.  Her  slowness 
is  a  proverb  with  the  Arnold’s.  But  ’tis 
known  of  her  that  she  was  a  good  and  hon¬ 
orable  woman.  All  of  my  forebears  have 
been  so.”  Here  Betsey  held  out  a  little, 
dark,  discolored  object  at  which  the  young 
nobleman  scarce  glances. 

“ Monsieur ,  le  Vicomte,  didst  leave  no 
sweetheart  behind  thee  in  thy  country  of 

France  before  thee  came  with  thy  noble  fa¬ 
ther  to  aid  our  country?” 

The  man  gave  her  a  startled  look,  then,  in 
a  moment,  he  was  but  a  boy  again.  “Bet¬ 
sey,”  he  cried,  “I  am  so  miserable,  for  thee 
it  is  I  love,  not  her.  She  between  whom 
there  is  some  bond  with  me  was  made  my 
fiancee  for  ‘reasons  of  convenience,’  as  we 
say  over  there.  Thou  dost  strike  at  my  hon¬ 
or,  Betsey,  but  I  tell  thee  truly,  the  maid 
loves  me  not  and  ’tis  thee  I  love,  and  it  will 
not  be  a  bond  of  love  I  break,  but  even  as 
I  tell  thee.” 

“Thee  says  the  maid  loves  thee  not. 
Doth  she  know  thee  well?” 

“Since  childhood,”  he  owned,  “we  have 
been  thrown  together.” 

The  girl  bent  wistfully  over  her  bed  of 
lilies,  as  if  seeking  to  draw  wisdom  from 
their  sweetness  and  purity,  and  then,  as  if 
help  had  been  given  her,  said  firmly:  “I 
have  a  message  for  thee.  The  maid  across 
the  sea  loves  thee  well,  and  lives  but  for 
thy  homecoming.” 

An  hour  later,  the  youth  whose  face 
drawn  with  pain  yet  seemed  at  last  in  ex¬ 
pression  to  somehow  match  her  noble  mood, 
bent  over  her  hand  for  a  last  parting.  From 
his  shelter  ’neath  the  maple  tree  came  “Le 
Due,”  the  noble  horse,  and  again  the  maid 
fed  him  from  her  hand  as  she  had  so  many 
times  before  in  the  time  since  the  young 
nobleman  had  made  the  acquaintance  with 
her  family. 

And  if,  after  so  many  generations  of  men, 
one  should  say  that  a  maid’s  hand  was  held 
close  to  a  man’s  heart  for  a  long  moment, 
who  can  deny  the  words?  But,  finally, 
with  a  mighty  swing,  the  youth  was  on  his 
charger  and  the  beautiful  creature  had 
borne  him  away. 

Of  the  next  days  an  historian  says  that 
on  the  eighteenth  of  June  “The  sparkling 
Regiment  of  Bourbonnais,  on  the  nineteenth 
the  Royal  Deux-Ponts;  on  the  twentieth, 
the  Regiment  of  Saintongue,  left,  suc¬ 
cessively,  the  camps  of  Providence;  keep¬ 
ing  always  between  each  other  the  distance 
of  a  day’s  march.  Crowds  were  present  to 
witness  their  departure.” 

Meanwhile,  in  the  Splendid  Mansion  of 
Eleazar  Arnold,  life  went  on  much  as 
usual.  Betsey  did  not  go  with  her  uncle  to 
witness  the  departure  of  the  French  troops. 



But  on  the  twentieth  of  June,  two  days  after 
the  departure  of  the  Bourbonnais,  the  girl, 
waking  very  early,  heard  a  sound  that  sent 
her  flying  to  the  window.  It  was  no  dream, 
for  there,  near  the  gate,  in  the  shade  of  the 
maple  tree,  pawed  a  splendid  black  charger, 

As  quickly  as  might  be,  Mistress  Betsey 
was  down  the  stair  and  her  arms  about  the 
creature’s  neck.  ’Twas  in  his  mane  she 
found  the  note.  It  ran: 

“ Ma  chere ,  I  didst  say  thee  art  a  little 
holy  virgin.  Thou  art.  But  1  shall  die  un¬ 
less  I  leave  thee  some  remembrance  of  a 
friendship  that  smells  as  sweet  in  memory 

as  the  vale-lilies  in  thy  garden.  I  know  that 
any  gift  from  my  hand  would  be  spurned 
as  thou  hast  spurned  my  love.  Therefore ,  / 
send  thee  by  a  messenger  whom  thou  shalt 
not  see,  a  token  of  the  great  regard  I  bear 

“ Thou  canst  not  return  Le  Due,  for  his 
master  is  far  away.  1  am  leaving  him  in  thy 
care  while  life  lasts. 

“Be  kind  to  him  for  the  sake  of  one  who 
does  thy  bidding.  Adieu,  forever.” 

And  firm  and  free  was  the  signature  so 
proud  appended  to  the  note  so  humble.  It 
read:  “Donatien-Marie  Joseph  De  Vineur 


The  arrival  of  the  French  fleet  in  Amer¬ 
ican  waters  in  the  third  year  of  the 
American  Revolution  was  the  first  evidence 
of  help  from  the  French  government.  How 
very  nearly  this  expression  of  allied  sym¬ 
pathy  came  to  be  converted  into  serious 
enmity — due  to  circumstances  almost  be¬ 
yond  human  control — will  never  be  known 
for  a  certainty,  but  we  may  rest  assured  that 
it  is  to  the  unusual  diplomatic  skill,  sym¬ 
pathy,  and  patriotism  of  the  young  LaFay- 
ette  and  to  the  mature  wisdom  of  Washing¬ 
ton  himself,  that  credit  must  go  for  the 
reconciliation  of  feeling  between  the  young 
American  republic  and  the  old  French 
monarchy.  While  this  first  French  expedi¬ 
tion  was  a  failure,  no  discredit  can  fall 
either  upon  its  able  commander  or  his  men. 

Within  forty-eight  hours  after  the  cabinet 
of  Louis  XVI  had  signed  the  treaty  of  alli¬ 
ance  with  the  American  envoys,  a  fleet  was 
being  prepared  to  go  to  the  aid  of  the  Amer¬ 
ican  Colonies  and  Comte  D’Estaing,  one  of 
France’s  most  honorable  and  able  military 
leaders,  had  been  selected  as  its  commander. 
Count  D’Estaing  was  about  fifty  years  old 
at  the  time,  a  skilled  veteran  with  a  fine  rep¬ 
utation  for  bravery  and  soldierly  ability. 
However,  while  he  had  commanded  ships 
from  the  land  in  past  wars  of  France,  he  had 
never  been  in  actual  command  of  a  fleet  in 
action  upon  the  high  seas.  His  selection  by 
the  king  naturally  caused  quite  a  bit  of 

adverse  comment  from  naval  officers  of  long 
experience,  and  the  attitude  of  his  own  offi¬ 
cers  under  him  when  he  put  to  sea  from  Tou¬ 
lon  in  April,  1778,  was  rather  hostile. 
Starting  under  sealed  orders,  the  captains  of 
his  twelve  ships  of  the  line  and  fourteen 
frigates  did  not  know  their  destination  was 
America  until  they  were  well  out  in  the  open 
Atlantic.  When  the  destination  and  purpose 
of  the  fleet  was  then  revealed,  every  man  was 
wildly  enthusiastic  and  anxious  to  aid  a 
young  country  which  was  fighting  a  nation 
with  which  France  had  long  been  at  odds. 

From  the  first,  however,  some  unlucky 
star  seemed  to  set  upon  the  expedition.  The 
crossing  took  eighty  days  and  was  made  in 
the  face  of  terrific  storms.  D’Estaing’s  orig¬ 
inal  orders  were  to  proceed  to  Philadelphia 
via  Delaware  Bay  and  attack  the  British 
there.  The  enemy  had  evacuated  the  city, 
however,  and  after  establishing  communica¬ 
tion  with  General  Washington  and  the  Con¬ 
tinental  Congress,  D’Estaing  sailed  up  the 
coast  to  New  York.  Here  he  was  handi¬ 
capped  by  the  lack  of  a  pilot.  When  a  pilot, 
sent  by  Washington,  did  arrive,  he  announced 
that  the  ships  of  the  fleet  drew  too  much 
water  to  be  able  to  cross  the  bar  at  the  en¬ 
trance  of  New  York  harbor.  D’Estaing  was, 
perhaps,  more  tantalized  than  at  any  other 
time  during  the  whole  voyage,  for  there  in 
New  York  harbor  lay  the  fleet  of  the  English 
Admiral,  Lord  Howe,  all  lighter  ships 
which  he  could  probably  have  captured  if 



he  could  have  reached  them.  His  men  were 
bitterly  disappointed  as  they  saw  their 
chance  of  an  engagement  dwindle  to 

At  Washington’s  suggestion,  the  fleet 
turned  about  and  headed  for  a  new  British 
stronghold,  Newport.  Here  the  French  ships 
came  to  anchor  off  Brenton’s  Reef  on  July 
29,  1778,  and  D’Estaing  sent  a  message  to 
General  Sullivan  of  the  American  land 
forces  that  he  was  ready  to  assist  him  in  an 
attack  upon  Newport.  The  officers  and  men 
of  D’Estaing’s  fleet  were  anxious  to  attack 
the  enemy  at  once  for  they  were  running 
short  of  provisions  and  the  dreaded  scurvy 
was  taking  severe  toll  among  the  members 
of  the  crews.  However,  in  obedience  to  the 
wish  of  Washington,  D’Estaing  put  himself 
under  the  command  of  Sullivan  and  when 
the  latter  asked  for  time  to  get  his  forces 
organized,  the  French  leader  held  his  impa¬ 
tient  men  in  readiness  until  word  from  the 
American  general  should  announce  the  time 
of  attack. 

For  nine  days  the  fleet  lay  idle  when  it 
could  have  been  almost  winning  a  victory 
by  itself.  Such  was  the  courtesy  of  the  vet¬ 
eran  D’Estaing  to  the  young  American,  Sul¬ 
livan.  The  plan  had  been  to  have  the  French 
sail  up  the  three  passages  of  Narragansett 
Bay,  destroy  the  British  warships  that  lay 
at  anchor  there,  and  capture  the  1,500  Hes¬ 
sians  who  were  quartered  on  Canonicut 
Island.  The  Americans  were  then  to  cross 
from  Tiverton  and  the  French  from  Canoni¬ 
cut,  thus  striking  the  British  two  blows  at 
the  same  time.  No  doubt  the  plan  would 
have  succeeded  admirably  if  there  had  not 
been  a  delay.  As  it  was,  the  extra  time 
allowed  the  English  a  chance  to  get  the  Hes¬ 
sians  off  the  island  and  also  to  send  word  to 
Lord  Howe  in  New  York  of  their  distress. 

D’Estaing  immediately  performed  his 
part  of  the  plan.  He  sent  one  ship,  the  “Sag- 
ittaire,”  up  the  West  Passage.  Two  other 
frigates  sailed  up  the  East  Passage,  but  the 
ships  they  hoped  to  engage  were  burned 
upon  their  approach.  One  of  these,  the 
“Spitfire,”  was  set  adrift  as  a  fire  ship,  and 
the  French  officer  who  had  been  detailed  to 
tow  it  to  a  place  of  safety  was  nearly  killed 
with  his  whole  crew  for  the  ship  blew  up  as 
he  fixed  the  grapnelling  irons. 

D’Estaing  could  have  captured  Canoni¬ 
cut,  but  its  evacuation  made  it  worthless. 

However,  the  “Sagittaire,”  aided  by  the 
“Fantasque,”  sailed  north  of  the  island. 
Again  the  British  destroyed  ships.  This 
time  they  were  the  frigates  “Orpheus,” 
“Lark,”  “Juno,”  of  34  guns,  the  “Cerb¬ 
erus,”  of  28  guns,  and  the  corvette  “Fal¬ 
con,”  of  14  guns.  After  this  severe  blow  to 
the  British  another  delay  set  in.  The  wait¬ 
ing  produced  a  great  tension  in  the  feelings 
of  the  allies,  and  a  lot  of  tact  was  required 
at  all  moments  to  smooth  the  tempers  of 
the  allied  French  officers.  LaFayette  was 
invaluable  at  this  period.  The  Frenchman, 
though  an  ardent  patriot  of  his  native  land, 
nevertheless  was  faithful  in  every  particu¬ 
lar  to  the  land  of  his  adoption,  and  his 
presence  as  a  commander  of  an  American 
contingent  made  him  available  as  an  astute 
diplomat.  Back  and  forth  and  back  and 
forth  he  travelled  between  the  flagship  of 
D’Estaing  and  the  headquarters  of  Sullivan, 
almost  exceeding  himself  in  his  attempts 
to  maintain  the  cordiality  of  spirit  between 
the  French  and  Americans  and  at  the  same 
time  to  further  the  cause  which  would  give 
glory  to  both. 

Finally  the  tenth  of  August  was  set  as  the 
day  of  attack.  On  the  eighth  D’Estaing  again 
ran  by  the  British  batteries  to  the  island  of 
Canonicut  and  on  the  ninth  was  disembark¬ 
ing  his  men,  drilling  them  on  the  island  and 
preparing  them  for  the  morrow.  What  was 
his  surprise  to  find  that  General  Sullivan, 
without  waiting  for  the  tenth  and  without 
notifying  him,  had  crossed  from  Tiverton 
to  Newport  on  the  ninth  and  then  had  sent 
to  ask  him  for  aid.  To  an  old  campaigner 
like  D’Estaing  and  to  his  seasoned  French 
officers  and  men  this  was  rank  discourtesy. 
Herein  started  openly  the  first  dissension 
between  the  two  sides.  The  French  lost  their 
faith  in  the  Americans  and  the  latter  thought 
their  allies  over-sensitive  and  petty.  Too, 
the  French  thought  that  Sullivan  was  jealous 
of  French  prestige  and  wanted  to  make  the 
affair  an  American  victory.  Despite  the 
feeling  among  his  officers,  D’Estaing  was 
loyal  to  the  American  cause  and  prepared  to 
send  aid  to  the  Americans.  Yet  fate  had  a 
hand  again  in  the  turn  of  events,  for  at  that 
moment  the  English  fleet  of  Lord  Howe 
appeared  off  Newport.  There  was  but  one 
thing  to  do  and  D’Estaing  did  it.  He  assem¬ 
bled  his  ships  and  men  and  sailed  to  meet 
the  English.  The  rest  of  the  story  you  well 



know,  how  the  chase  began  with  the  English 
fleeing  back  to  New  York  with  the  French 
in  pursuit  until,  at  the  time  the  signal  was 
given  for  battle,  a  great  storm  arose,  crip¬ 
pling  each  fleet  and  sending  both  limping 
into  port  for  repairs. 

Before  setting  sail  from  Newport,  D’Es- 
taing  had  sent  a  message  to  General  Sulli¬ 
van  telling  him  that  he  would  return  after 
the  engagement.  The  real  engagement  was 
a  fatal  one  with  the  storm,  yet  D’Estaing 
kept  his  word  and  returned.  The  Americans 
wanted  him  to  help  them  attack  Newport  at 
once,  but  the  French  leader  decided  to  put 
on  to  Boston  for  repairs  according  to  his 
first  general  orders  from  the  French  King. 
At  LaFayette’s  instigation  he  did  agree  to 
send  ashore  all  his  extra  sailors  and  his 
marines  to  help  in  the  attack  if  he  could  be 
sure  it  would  take  place  within  two  days. 
Another  American  delay  made  any  definite 
answer  impossible,  and  the  French  dared 
not  wait  any  longer,  for  they  knew  for  a 
fact  that  a  new  British  fleet  under  Admiral 
Byron  was  already  near  Newport.  To  have 
been  forced  into  an  engagement  with  a  fresh 
fleet  would  have  been  totally  disastrous.  The 

storm  had  sunk  the  French  ship  “Cesar,” 
and  totally  crippled  the  flagship  “Langue¬ 
doc”  and  the  “Marseillais,”  and  repairs 
were  immediately  necessary. 

Upon  their  sailing  from  Newport  the 
French  received  a  severe  denouncement  by 
the  Americans  which  was  sent  to  them  as  a 
written  and  signed  protest.  In  the  face  of 
this  insult  the  older  D’Estaing  realized  that 
the  Americans  were  younger,  hot-headed, 
and  disappointed,  and,  though  silent,  re¬ 
mained  true  to  the  American  cause.  When 
LaFayette  rode  to  Boston  to  ask  again  for 
the  help  of  his  marines,  now  that  his  ships 
were  safe,  he  acquiesced  quickly  and  pre¬ 
pared  to  send  them  at  once.  However,  by 
that  time  the  English  had  attacked  and  had 
been  repulsed,  and  General  Sullivan  had 
made  his  famous  retreat  to  the  mainland. 

To  D’Estaing  goes  sincere  sympathy  and 
praise.  Several  victories  should  have  been 
his  and  were  snatched  from  him.  The  Con¬ 
tinental  Congress  later  gave  him  a  vote  of 
thanks  and  confidence,  and  cordiality  was 
restored,  even  with  those  who  had  been  most 
violently  inclined  to  denounce  both  the  gal¬ 
lant  French  leader  and  his  men. 


HE  was  a  veteran  of  King  Louis  the  XVI.  - 
and  in  a  strange  country. 

She  was  a  Rhode  Island  farmer’s 

He,  fifty  years  of  age,  and  a  giant  in 

She,  a  slip  of  a  girl  and  in  her  teens. 

He  could  not  speak  a  word  of  English, 
while  she,  alas,  knew  no  French! 

He  hailed  from  Lyons,  France,  and  had 
come  across  the  ocean  with  Lafayette. 

She  was  born  on  that  avenue  in  Provi¬ 
dence  which  still  bears  her  family’s  name. 

And  how  these  two  invented  a  common 
language  that  long  antedated  Esperanto  is 
not,  after  all  these  years,  surely  known. 
But  truth  to  tell,  all  the  townspeople  flocked 
to  the  French  camp  during  their  scanty 
leisure  to  watch  the  daily  drills,  the  flying 
colors,  the  dress-parades,  and  to  listen  to 
the  martial  music  of  its  bands. 

Among  the  townspeople  would  be  the  girl 
and  her  father,  both  to  gaze  with  interest  at 
the  activities  of  the  camp  and  also  to  transact 
business,  for  these  gay,  gallant  Frenchmen 
had  brought  a  certain  measure  of  prosperity 
to  the  local  farmers,  and  Olive’s  father  had 
taken  his  cue  from  Jeremiah  Dexter,  a  neigh¬ 
bor  and  one  of  the  owners  of  the  land  leased 
by  the  foreign  troops. 

Jeremiah,  he  had  heard,  had  come  into  his 
house  one  day  carrying  a  bag  of  silver  which 
he  had  just  received  from  the  French  for  the 
use  of  his  land  and  for  farm  produce,  and 
dropping  the  bag  on  the  floor  had  made  a 
fair  offer  to  his  two  nieces.  If  either  of  them, 
he  said,  could  lift  the  bag,  alone,  it  should 
be  hers.  And  neither  could  lift  the  dead 
weight  from  the  floor,  and,  chuckling,  the 
sturdy  farmer  again  shouldered  the  bag  and 
went  off  with  it,  leaving  the  two  girls  with 
rueful  faces. 



So  Olive’s  father  emulated  Jeremiah  Dex¬ 
ter,  and  sold  his  chickens,  ducks,  sheep  and 
now  and  again  a  “beef  critter”  to  the  offi¬ 
cers’  chief  of  cuisine,  receiving  in  return 
“good,  hard  money,”  “lawful  silver  money,” 
which  was  especially  welcome  in  those  war 

Sometimes  he  had  to  wait  a  little  while 
for  his  money,  but  when  he  got  word  from 
Headquarters  to  present  his  bill  he  had  only 
to  walk  the  short  distance  from  his  house  to 
the  Commissaire9  s  department,  await  a  care¬ 
ful  checking  up  of  his  charges,  and  then  de¬ 
part  with  a  pocket  full  of  silver. 

History  records  that  December,  1780, 
opened  “cold  and  forbidding.  Piercing 
winds,  snow  and  rain  contributed  greatly  to 
the  discomfort  of  camp  life  on  Rhode  Island 
and  created  an  urgent  demand  for  fuel.  .  . 
Commissary  Blanchard  kept  one  hundred 
and  twenty  axemen  steadily  at  work  in  the 
woods  of  Pawtuxet.” 

Olive’s  father  became  one  of  these  axe¬ 
men,  glad  of  the  opportunity  to  get  the  wage 
that  the  French  were  willing  to  pay  him  for 
his  labor. 

On  the  14th  day  of  that  December  the 
Commissary  set  sail  for  Newport  with  a 
cargo  of  wood,  and  the  girl’s  father  was  one 
of  the  workers  who  went  with  him.  The  day 
was  terribly  cold,  and  although  a  gale 
nearly  sunk  the  boat,  they  reached  Newport 
safely  that  night,  and  next  day  they  began 
to  unload  the  vessel.  It  so  happened  that 
December  15th,  1780,  was  the  day  that  poor 
Admiral  De  Ternay  died  of  a  malignant 
fever  in  a  house  on  Washington  Street,  in 
Newport,  and,  because  of  the  nature  of  his 
disease,  was  buried  on  the  very  next  day,  and 
our  farmer  saw  the  funeral  procession. 

He  looked  a  little  the  worse  for  wear,  did 
Olive’s  father,  that  night  he  returned  home, 
and,  sitting  at  the  open  fire,  recounted  the 
details  of  the  spectacle  to  his  family.  Every 
window  and  house-top  along  the  streets 
were  crowded  as  sailors  from  his  own  flag¬ 
ship  bore  the  dead  Admiral  in  his  coffin 
down  Washington  Street,  up  the  Long 
Wharf,  through  Thames  Street,  up  Church 
Street  to  Trinity  Churchyard.  Twelve  priests 
he  had  counted,  walking  at  the  head  of  the 
coffin,  chanting  the  Service  for  the  Dead, 
while  the  bands  of  the  Army  and  the  Navy 
played  their  mournful  dirges.  All  eyes  were 
turned  upon  the  most  distinguished  captains 

of  the  French  Navy  with  their  badges  of 
mourning  and  the  more  celebrated  officers 
of  the  French  Army,  of  whom  the  most 
important  was  the  Count  de  Rochambeau 
who  was  accompanied  by  his  staff. 

It  was  twilight  when  the  burial  took  place, 
and  the  priests  at  the  grave  bore  torches 
while  performing  the  customary  rites  of  the 
Roman  Church.  The  good  farmer,  although 
he  had  been  educated  otherwise,  was  much 
impressed,  and  concluded  the  ceremonies 
were  not  “vain  things  he  had  imagined  them 
until  he  had  been  present  himself  and  felt 
the  solemnity  of  them.” 

But  now  the  strain  and  anxiety  of  the 
rough  voyage  resulted  in  an  illness  which 
afflicted  Olive’s  father,  and  not  even  by 
Christmas  Eve  would  his  good  wife  allow 
him  to  go  out  to  present  his  bill  for  produce 
to  the  Commissaire ,  although  he  had  been 
bidden  to  do  so  from  the  Headquarters  in 
the  Tavern  nearby. 

For  this  reason  the  sick  man  decided  to 
send  his  daughter  to  carry  his  respects  and 
his  bill  to  the  Commissaire ,  though  ordi¬ 
narily  he  would  never  have  sent  his  child 
alone  to  the  camp.  But  he  had  come  to  feel  a 
real  respect  for  the  Frenchmen.  To  a  camp 
so  perfectly  disciplined,  he  concluded,  he 
could  send  his  daughter  in  safety. 

So,  presently,  Olive  walked  through  the 
snow  to  the  door  of  the  Headquarters.  To 
the  tall  sentry  pacing  to  and  fro  before  it 
she  endeavored  to  explain  her  errand,  but, 
alas!  he  could  not  understand  a  word  she 
said,  for  he  did  not  know  a  word  of  English. 
But  he  better  understood  the  paper  in  her 
hand,  and  motioned  her  into  the  house  and 
up  a  staircase.  Through  the  great  tap-room 
where  officers  sat  in  groups,  talking  or  writ¬ 
ing,  and  up  the  stair  into  a  long  chamber 
where  logs  burned  redly  on  the  wide  hearth, 
the  slip  of  a  girl  wended  her  modest  way. 
Somebody  in  uniform  took  her  paper  and 
motioned  her  to  a  seat  in  a  dim  corner. 

As  she  waited,  she  noted  the  table,  set  out 
for  supper,  in  the  centre  of  the  chamber,  and 
presently  saw  the  officers  gather  around  the 
board,  a  magnificent  company  in  their  rich 
uniforms,  their  dark  eyes  sparkling  under 
their  powdered  hair.  Each  man  wore  a 
badge  of  mourning,  and  for  this  reason  and 
the  fact  that  these  gallant  soldiers  were  far 
from  their  own  country  on  this  Christmas 
Eve,  the  girl  sensed,  the  gay  chatter  of  their 



native  France  was  not  so  much  in  evidence 
as  usual.  A  noble,  commanding  figure  whom 
everybody  called  “Markee”  took  his  place 
at  the  head  of  the  table.  At  his  right  was 
seated  an  apparently  honored  guest — an 
elderly  man,  an  American  and  not  a  soldier, 
and  his  sober  garb  was  in  great  contrast  with 
the  splendid  attire  of  his  hosts. 

When  all  were  seated,  this  dignified  old 
man  stood  up  and  began  to  pray.  Yes,  over 
that  table  where  the  flowing  bowl  awaited 
them  was  pronounced  a  long  prayer.  In 
regular  old  Puritan  fashion  the  Governor  of 
Connecticut  was  “saying  grace.”  And  in 
accents  of  such  reverence  and  with  such  sin¬ 
cerity  that  from  the  mustaches  of  twenty 
versatile,  laughter-loving  Frenchmen  invol¬ 
untarily  sprang,  at  the  prayer’s  close,  twenty 
devout  and  fervent  Amens ! 

It  was  when  the  company,  standing,  was 
drinking  splendidly  to  the  health  of  Wash¬ 
ington  and  to  the  health  of  the  French  King 
that  the  Commissaire  slipped  into  the  room 
quietly,  and  from  her  dim  corner  Olive  saw 
him  move  a  little  slide  in  the  wall  and  take 
from  behind  it  a  small,  heavy  bag.  Pieces  of 
silver  he  took  from  it,  and  counting  out  a 
goodly  number  he  replaced  the  rest  in  the 
bag  and  put  it  back  again  into  the  hole  in 
the  wall  so  artfully  concealed  by  the  little 
sliding  door  that  appeared  a  part  of  the 
woodwork.  One  may  see  this  little  secret 
hiding-place  to  this  day  in  the  wall  of  the 
upper  chamber  in  the  old  Pidge  Tavern  now 
within  the  boundaries  of  Providence. 

The  Commissaire  then  beckoned  to  the 
girl  and  gave  her  the  silver  pieces  which 
you  may  be  sure  were  carefully  placed  in 
one  of  her  large  pockets,  and  at  the  foot  of 

the  stair  said  a  word  to  the  gigantic  sentinel 
who  just  now  had  been  relieved  by  another, 
and  who  followed  Olive  out  of  the  Tavern 

It  was  bitter  cold  when  the  slip  of  a  girl 
and  the  giant  soldier  stepped  out  into  the 
night,  but  the  stars  were  so  bright  and  so 
beautiful  that  they  fairly  dazzled  the  eye. 
66 Le  Commissaire  me  commande  de  vous 
escorter  en  surete  a  la  porte  de  votre  pere 
(“The  Commissary  bids  me  to  see  you  safely 
to  your  father’s  door,”)  he  said,  awkwardly. 
And  so  he  saw  her  safely  to  her  father’s 
door,  and  that  was  the  beginning  of  a  friend¬ 
ship  that  blossomed  into  a  love  so  true  that 
though  he  was  fifty  and  she  but  in  her  teens, 
and  though  he  spoke  not  a  word  of  English 
while  she,  alas!  knew  no  French,  when  the 
French  troops  sailed  for  home  at  the  close 
of  the  War,  Captain  John  George  Curien 
remained  in  our  country,  and  he  and  Olive 
lived  many  happy,  married  years  in  our  own 
City  of  Providence. 

And  Olive, — what  was  her  full  maiden 
name?  ’Twas  a  rather  curious  combination, 
for  her  descendants  affirm  that  it  was  Olive 

And  in  all  those  happy  years  he  never 
spoke  a  word  save  in  his  native  tongue!  But 
be  that  as  it  may,  when  he  died  his  widow 
wrote  in  English  the  verse  you  may  read 
today  on  the  soldier’s  headstone  in  old  Min¬ 
eral  Spring  Cemetery  in  Pawtucket, — and 
you  will  note  that  the  grave  is  a  very,  very 
long  one.  The  verse  reads : 

“He  crossed  the  raging  ocean 
This  country  for  to  save, 

’Twas  France  that  gave  him  birth, 

And  America  a  grave.” 


Newport  has  so  many  landmarks — it  is 
truly  historic  in  atmosphere — that  it 
would  be  difficult  to  choose  any  one  spot 
or  object  and  call  it  the  most  distinctive 
according  to  historical  standards.  There  is 
the  Old  Stone  Mill,  supposedly  reminiscent 
of  the  years  1001  to  1008  A.  D.,  when  the 
Vikings  visited  Narragansett  Bay.  A  later 
period  is  represented  by  the  old  Redwood 

Library,  Trinity  Church,  and  the  Jewish 
Synagogue.  Again,  what  of  that  grand  old 
ship  “Constellation,”  or  the  old  Market 
House,  or  the  Friend’s  Meeting  House,  or  the 
Old  Colony  House,  at  the  head  of  Washing¬ 
ton  Square?  All  these  are  outstanding  as 
landmarks,  but  it  is  not  of  them  that  we 
shall  choose  to  deal.  It  is  our  purpose  at 
this  time  to  turn  to  another  class  of  land¬ 
marks  and  select  the  one  which  is  generally 



hailed  as  the  most  important.  This  class 
of  landmarks  is  made  up  of  the  many  ven¬ 
erable  old  homesteads  that  line  some  of  the 
ancient  streets  of  the  city,  and  the  one  that 
we  shall  discuss  here  is  the  Old  Vernon 
House.  Few,  if  any,  will  dispute  with  us 
its  importance  or  deny  the  richness  of  its 
colorful  history. 

The  Vernon  property  goes  back  to  the 
days  of  the  founding  of  Newport,  in  the 
year  1639.  It  was  a  part  of  the  original 
grant  of  land  made  to  the  nine  original 
settlers  who  left  the  Portsmouth  settlement 
and  decided  to  make  a  new  town  farther 
south  on  the  island.  Jeremy  Clarke,  one  of 
the  seven  elders  among  these  nine  original 
settlers,  was  the  first  owner  of  the  prop¬ 
erty.  You  will  remember  that  it  was  the 
son  of  Jeremy,  Walter  Clarke,  who  was 
one  of  the  early  governors  of  the  Colony. 
And  when  some  of  the  early  streets  were 
laid  out,  two  of  them,  Clarke  and  Mary 
Streets,  served  as  boundaries  for  this  prop¬ 
erty.  So  much  then  for  the  land  itself. 

The  Vernon  House  came  later,  when  the 
property  came  into  the  possession  of  a 
prominent  Newport  merchant  named  Met¬ 
calf  Bowler.  He  bought  the  piece  of  land 
in  1758,  and  in  the  same  year  erected  the 
house  at  the  northeast  corner  of  Clarke  and 
Mary  Streets.  While  it  is  scarcely  prob¬ 
able  that  Peter  Harrison  was  the  architect, 
nevertheless  whoever  did  design  the  house 
copied  its  exterior  finish  from  that  of  Red¬ 
wood  Library,  rusticating  it  in  a  manner 
very  similar  to  the  latter. 

It  is  a  typical  colonial  mansion  and, 
as  such,  very  beautiful.  When  Bowler,  the 
merchant,  built  it,  it  had  its  setting  in  spa¬ 
cious  grounds  with  surrounding  gardens 
and  fruit  and  shade  trees  and  a  coach  house 
and  slave  quarters  in  the  rear  to  give  it  the 
dignity  of  an  estate.  And  if  the  exterior  is 
beautiful,  the  interior  (which  has  been  ex¬ 
ceptionally  well  preserved)  is  even  more 
so.  There  one  will  find  the  fine  wall  panel¬ 
ling,  the  spacious  halls  and  rooms,  and  the 
graceful  staircase  just  as  in  the  day  when 
Metcalf  Bowler  lived  in  the  house.  The 
brownstone  steps,  before  the  front  door, 
with  their  triple  approaches,  are  the  only 
ones  of  this  type  in  Newport  (an  unusual 
distinction)  and  even  such  small  things  as 
the  knocker  on  this  door  are  original. 

Metcalf  Bowler  was  an  Englishman  who 
had  come  first  to  Boston,  living  there  for 
a  number  of  years  on  Beacon  Hill  before 
he  moved  to  Newport  and  married  the 
daughter  of  Major  Fairchild.  It  was  about 
1750  when  he  did  this  and  settled  down. 
The  family  was  one  which  was  well  cap¬ 
able  of  gracing  the  mansion  in  which  it 
lived.  Mrs.  Bowler  was  a  handsome  woman 
who  dressed  in  satins  and  silks,  wore  her 
hair  drawn  back  tightly,  and  as  a  last  ac¬ 
centuation  of  her  natural  beauty  wore  strik¬ 
ing  throat  jewels.  Her  husband  had  not 
only  the  wealth  and  dignity  of  a  very  suc¬ 
cessful  merchant,  but  had  the  additional 
prestige  of  being  a  warden  of  Trinity 
Church  and  an  honored  representative  of 
the  Colony  in  the  politics  of  the  day.  He 
owned  the  only  coach  in  town  and  in  it 
travelled  to  New  York,  in  1765,  to  attend 
one  of  the  early  conventions  at  which  the 
rights  of  all  the  colonists  were  being  de¬ 
cided.  In  1767,  he  gave  a  great  banquet  in 
his  beautiful  mansion  to  celebrate  the  first 
anniversary  of  the  Stamp  Act.  Later,  it 
was  he  who  drew  up  an  address  to  be  pre¬ 
sented  in  behalf  of  the  Colony  to  King 
George  I.  In  1768,  he  was  elected  to  the 
General  Assembly  in  Newport,  and  served 
as  speaker  of  that  body  for  nineteen  years. 
In  private  life  he  was  a  devoted  father  to  his 
family,  and  the  old  house  echoed  to  the 
happy  laughter  of  his  many  children. 

And  where  does  the  name  Vernon  come 
in,  you  ask?  We  shall  come  to  that  at 
once.  In  1773,  just  before  the  Revolution, 
the  mansion  passed  out  of  the  hands  of  the 
Bowler  family,  and  became  the  property 
of  William  Vernon,  both  a  merchant  and 
shipowner,  and  a  Rhode  Islander  of  im¬ 
portance.  His  father,  Thomas  Vernon,  had 
served  as  the  royal  postmaster,  as  a  senior 
warden  of  Trinity  Church,  and  as  the  sec¬ 
retary  of  Redwood  Library,  and,  as  might 
be  supposed,  was  decidedly  a  Tory  in  his 
sympathies.  But  the  two  sons,  William  and 
Samuel,  were  ardent  patriots,  and  partners 
in  business. 

William  Vernon  did  not  buy  the  man¬ 
sion  that  now  bears  his  name  until  he  was 
fifty-four  years  old.  The  price  he  paid  for 
it  was  £2000,  a  small  fortune  in  those  days. 
Life  in  the  house  proceeded  on  a  similar 
scale  as  in  the  days  when  it  was  inhabited 



by  the  Bowler  family.  It  was,  again,  a 
case  of  wealth  in  its  natural  and  proper 
setting.  But  the  Vernons  did  not  have  long 
to  enjoy  their  new  estate  in  peace.  The 
Revolution  was  soon  upon  them,  disrupt¬ 
ing  the  business  and  social  life  of  Newport 
perhaps  more  than  in  any  other  colonial 
town.  Many  of  the  Newport  families  went 
away,  but  William  Vernon  stayed  on  until 
1776.  Then  he,  too,  closed  his  estate,  buried 
all  silver,  stored  other  articles  and  furni¬ 
ture  of  especial  value,  and  departed.  But 
one  aunt  in  the  family  refused  to  leave  and 
Samuel,  one  of  William  Vernon’s  two  sons, 
remained  in  town  to  look  out  for  her  and 
for  the  estate.  The  other  son,  William,  Jr., 
was  at  Princeton,  but  was  then  sent  by  his 
father  to  France  at  the  outbreak  of  hos¬ 

William  Vernon,  Sr.,  became  the  presi¬ 
dent  of  the  Navy  Board  which  had  charge 
of  all  the  marine  affairs  of  the  colonies 
during  the  war.  He  gave  much  of  his  own 
money  to  the  government  for  the  building 
of  new  ships,  and  his  own  experience  as  a 
shipowner  was  of  inestimable  value  in 
filling  the  duties  of  his  new  post. 

You  may  imagine  his  fears  for  his  prop¬ 
erty  when  reports  of  the  destruction  of  so 
many  Newport  buildings  by  the  British, 
reached  his  ears.  But  the  mansion  did  not 
suffer  during  the  British  occupation  of  the 
town,  and  when  the  French  came  to  take 
their  place  in  1780,  the  Vernon  House  re¬ 
ceived  its  first  baptism  of  fame.  In  assign¬ 
ing  various  homes  to  the  officers  of  the 
French  Army,  it  was  turned  over  to  General 
Rochambeau  to  be  used  as  his  home  and 

Here,  in  the  north  parlor,  the  great  gen¬ 
eral  received  his  officers,  and  here  he  enter¬ 
tained  many  a  distinguished  guest,  including 
Lafayette,  and,  in  1781,  General  Washing¬ 
ton  himself.  Washington  probably  slept  in 
the  northwest  room  directly  over  the  parlor, 
and  here  it  is  well  to  note  that  this  was  per¬ 
haps  the  only  time  that  the  famous  Ameri¬ 
can  general  and  his  distinguished  French 
aide  lived  under  the  same  roof.  It  was 
at  this  time  that,  during  a  parade  held  in 
Newport,  in  honor  of  Washington,  there 
occurred  the  incident  of  the  little  boy  who 

saw  Washington  at  the  window  of  the 
Vernon  House  and  exclaimed,  “Why, 
father,  General  Washington  is  a  man!”  To 
which  Washington,  hearing  the  child’s  re¬ 
mark,  replied,  “Yes,  my  lad,  and  nothing 
but  a  man !  ” 

While  Rochambeau  occupied  the  house, 
he  had  a  large  hall  built  on  the  estate  for 
the  purpose  of  holding  official  balls  and 
entertainments  for  his  officers  and  New¬ 
port  society.  William  Vernon  thought  this 
a  bit  presumptuous  of  him,  but  the  matter 
was  soon  smoothed  out.  After  the  French 
left  and  William  Vernon  returned  to  take 
possession  of  his  estate,  he  sent  in  a  bill  to 
Rochambeau  for  necessary  repairs  after 
his  occupation  of  the  house,  but  charged 
the  general  no  rent.  The  bill  was  im¬ 
mediately  honored  and  paid  in  good  French 

Thus,  after  the  war,  we  find  the  house 
comparatively  quiet  again.  William  Vernon 
and  his  son  Samuel  once  more  entered  busi¬ 
ness  as  Newport  merchants  and  the  former 
became  president  of  Redwood  Library. 
After  remaining  in  France  all  during  the 
Reign  of  Terror  until  the  last  of  the  aris¬ 
tocracy  with  whom  he  had  associated  were 
killed  or  imprisoned,  William,  Jr.,  returned 
home  to  Newport,  too,  bringing  with  him  a 
copy  of  the  “Mona  Lisa”  which  is  reputed 
to  have  been  given  him  by  his  friend 
Marie  Antoinette.  It  was  later  returned  to 
France  and  now  hangs  in  the  Louvre. 

And  now  we  are  near  the  end  of  our 
story.  William  Vernon,  Sr.,  died  in  1806, 
and  his  sons  lived  on  in  the  house  until 
their  deaths,  William  in  1833,  and  Samuel 
in  1834.  The  latter’s  widow  occupied  the 
house  until  1858.  Then,  in  1872,  it  was  sold 
at  auction  to  Harwood  E.  Read,  and  later 
used  by  the  U.  S.  Geological  Survey,  until 
finally  it  became  the  property  and  home 
of  the  Family  Welfare  Society,  which 
bought  the  house  after  Mr.  Read’s  death  in 
1912,  and  restored  it.  It  is  this  organiza¬ 
tion  that  owns  and  occupies  it  now. 

This,  then,  is  the  story  of  the  Vernon 
House,  a  landmark  of  note  in  old  Newport, 
and  you  will  probably  agree  that  few  other 
homesteads  can  boast  of  an  equal  prestige 
and  romance. 




IF  the  French  officers  and  men  who  so 
gallantly  left  the  gay  society  and  court 
life  of  their  native  land  to  come  to  the  aid 
of  the  struggling  American  colonists  ex¬ 
pected  to  find  the  latter  rude  in  manners 
and  unappreciative  of  the  amenities  of  so¬ 
cial  life,  they  were  happily  disappointed. 
And  if  the  people  of  Newport  looked  for¬ 
ward  to  the  arrival  of  the  French  allies 
with  a  great  deal  of  misgiving,  they  too 
were  relieved  to  find  these  men  not  “the 
effeminate  Beings”  they  “were  heretofore 
taught  to  believe  them,  but  as  large  &  as 
likely  as  can  be  produced  by  any  nation.” 
Certainly  the  arrival  of  these  many  distin¬ 
guished  Frenchmen  with  their  dazzling  uni¬ 
forms  and  courtly  manners  made  the  win¬ 
ter  of  1780-81  a  period  of  much  needed 
diversion  for  a  war-weary  Newport.  The 
inhabitants  of  the  old  seaport  took  their 
new  guests  as  a  form  of  wine,  responding 
miraculously  to  their  invigorating  pres¬ 
ence,  beginning  to  laugh  again  in  the  gaiety 
of  social  life,  and  turning  with  new  heart 
to  build  up  a  bustling  business  and  trade. 
The  best  mansions  of  the  town  were  thrown 
open  to  the  French  officers  and  many  were 
directly  allotted  to  them  for  use  as  quar¬ 
ters.  Brilliant  parties  and  balls  sprang  into 
immediate  vogue,  and  all  Newport  outdid 
itself  in  courtesy  and  hospitality. 

Nor  were  the  Frenchmen  one  whit  be¬ 
hind.  Perhaps  they  knew  that  a  reputation 
for  dissolute  living  and  easy  morals  had 
preceded  them  and  deliberately  set  out  to 
shatter  the  truth  of  such  evil  rumors.  Cer¬ 
tainly,  by  acting  from  the  beginning  with 
the  most  perfect  decorum  and  courtesy, 
they  dispelled  whatever  apprehensions  the 
people  of  Newport  may  have  had.  Rather, 
the  sight  of  their  brilliant  regalia,  the  white 
uniforms  of  the  Deux-Ponts  regiment,  the 
green  and  white  of  the  Saintonge,  the  black 
and  red  of  the  Bourbonnais,  and  the  rose 
facings  of  the  Soissonnais  with  white  and 
rose  plumes  decorating  their  grenadier 
caps,  soon  caused  many  a  feminine  heart  to 
flutter,  and  perhaps  to  give  inward  thanks 
that  its  owner  was  alive  at  such  a  time. 

But  the  belles  of  Newport  were  not  the 
only  ones  to  feel  the  delightful  quickening 
of  the  pulse  and  excited  beating  of  the 
heart.  Charming  as  the  French  had  found 
all  Newport,  they  were  to  a  man  won  by  its 
beautiful  women.  Accustomed  as  they  had 
been  to  the  heralded  charms  of  French 
women,  their  lavish  praise  of  the  fair  sex 
in  America  (as  contained  in  their  many 
letters)  has  a  greater  significance.  Refined, 
attractive,  gallant,  and  always  considerate, 
they  vied  among  themselves  all  through  the 
winter  for  the  honor  of  paying  tribute  to 
their  fair  Colonial  hostesses  and  partners 
at  gay  social  functions.  Many  a  French 
heart  was  left  behind  in  Newport  at  part¬ 
ing  time,  and  many  a  romance  and  friend¬ 
ship  that  graced  the  winter  months  will 
never  be  known.  But  we  can  at  least  con¬ 
sider,  for  a  moment,  who  these  fair  ones 
were  who  captivated  so  many  a  French  eye 
and  mind. 

There  were  scores  of  attractive  young 
women  in  the  rounds  of  social  life,  but,  as 
in  any  grouping,  some  must  be  granted  the 
reigning  places  as  “belles.”  Foremost  was 
Polly  Lawton,  the  demure  Quakeress,  “the 
very  pearl  of  Newport  beauties.”  Of  her, 
as  of  others,  we  shall  speak  later.  Then 
there  were  her  sister,  Eliza;  Polly  Wanton; 
Mollie,  Amy  and  Abby  Robinson;  Isabel 
and  Amey  Ward;  Eliza,  Katherine  and 
Nancy  Hunter;  Mehetabel  Redwood,  daugh¬ 
ter  of  Abraham  Redwood,  founder  of  New¬ 
port’s  library;  Margaret  and  Mary  Champ- 
lin,  daughters  of  Christopher  Champlin,  a 
leading  merchant;  and  lastly  Betsy  Ellery 
and  her  sisters,  the  daughters  of  William 
Ellery,  signer  of  the  Declaration  of  Inde¬ 
pendence.  The  constant  flirtation  and  play 
of  admiration  between  these  young  ladies 
and  the  all-too-susceptible  French  officers 
gave  a  welcome  zest  to  Newport  society. 

But  what  did  the  French  themselves  have 
to  say  in  the  matter?  The  gay  Duke  de 
Lauzun,  a  veritable  Don  Juan,  once  French 
Ambassador  to  London,  was  completely 
won  by  the  Hunter  girls  and  their  mother 
who  treated  him  with  the  utmost  hospital¬ 
ity.  “Had  they  been  my  sisters,”  he  writes, 



“I  could  not  have  liked  them  better,  espe¬ 
cially  the  eldest,  who  is  one  of  the  most 
amiable  persons  I  have  ever  met.”  This  eld¬ 
est  daughter,  Katherine,  made  such  a  con¬ 
quest  of  the  gallant  gentleman  that,  on  the 
night  before  he  left  America  for  France, 
he  rode  from  Providence  to  Newport  in 
order  to  have  a  last  hour  with  her  and  to 
bid  her  good-by. 

Prince  de  Broglie,  who  has  left  the  best 
record  of  the  French  stay  in  Newport,  adds 
a  bit  about  the  Misses  Hunter.  He  calls 
them  the  rivals  of  Miss  Champlin,  saying, 
“The  elder  of  the  two  Misses  Hunter,  with¬ 
out  being  regularly  beautiful,  has  what  we 
call  iun  ervsemble  noble  et  de  bonne  com - 
pagnie9  her  face  is  animated  and  intelli¬ 
gent,  she  is  graceful  in  all  her  movements, 
and  she  dresses  quite  as  well  as  Miss 
Champlin,  but  she  is  not  quite  so  fresh¬ 
looking.  Her  sister,  Miss  Nancy  Hunter,  is 
the  very  personification  of  a  rose;  she  is 
gay,  is  always  smiling,  and  has,  what  is 
very  rare  in  America,  beautiful  teeth.”  Of 
Miss  Champlin,  he  gives  the  following  de¬ 
scription:  “She  has  fine  eyes,  a  pretty 
mouth,  the  freshness  of  youth,  a  small 
waist,  and  pretty  foot,  and  a  figure  that 
leaves  nothing  to  be  desired.  To  all  these 
advantages  she  added  that  of  being  dressed 
and  coiffed  with  much  taste,  that  is  to  say, 
in  the  French  style — and  of  understanding 
and  speaking  our  language.” 

Christopher  Champlin,  her  father,  used 
to  keep  his  horse  saddled  and  a  groom  on 
the  lookout  for  the  appearance  of  Martha 
Redwood  Ellery  so  that  upon  her  appear¬ 
ance  he  might  immediately  ride  forth  to 
meet  her.  His  efforts  at  this  method  of 
courtship  were  successful,  for  later  they 
were  married. 

But  the  one  young  belle  of  the  town  to 
whom  the  French  officers  paid  their  highest 
tribute  was  Polly  Lawton,  the  Quakeress. 
De  Broglie  says  of  her  “[she  was]  a  very 
goddess  of  grace  and  beauty — Minerva  her¬ 
self,  but  with  her  warlike  attributes  ex¬ 
changed  for  the  simple  garb  of  a  shepard- 
ess  .  .  .  she  seemed  entirely  unsuspicious  of 
her  own  charms  .  .  .  and  I  frankly  confess 
that  to  me  this  seductive  Quakeress  seemed 
to  be  Nature’s  masterpiece  .  .  .  Polly  had  a 
sister,  dressed  exactly  like  herself,  and  who 
is  very  pretty,  but  we  had  not  time  to  look 

at  her  when  her  older  sister  was  present.” 
Count  de  Segur,  another  gallant  who  was 
completely  captivated  by  Newport’s  belles, 
adds  to  this  .  .  .  “So  much  beauty,  so  much 
simplicity,  so  much  elegance  and  so  much 
modesty  were  perhaps  never  before  com¬ 
bined  in  the  same  person.  .  .  .  Her  gown 
was  white,  like  herself,  whilst  her  ample 
muslin  neckerchief  and  the  envious  cam¬ 
bric  of  her  cap  which  scarcely  allowed  me 
to  see  her  light-colored  hair,  and  the  mod¬ 
est  attire  in  short,  of  a  pious  virgin,  seemed 
vainly  to  endeavor  to  conceal  the  most 
graceful  figure  and  the  most  beautiful  form 
imaginable  .  .  .” 

So  it  would  be  possible  to  go  on  in¬ 
definitely,  listing  the  comments  of  these 
inspired  Frenchmen.  They  were  enchanted 
by  women  of  Newport,  as  a  group  and 
individually;  and,  if  their  descriptions  of 
these  fair  enchantresses  are  at  all  accurate, 
and  not  too  highly  colored  by  their  emo¬ 
tions,  we  may  credit  their  taste.  Surely  the 
fair  ones  of  Newport  were  only  too  glad  to 
have  such  a  chance  to  make  conquests 
(despite  all  protestations  of  their  mod¬ 
esty),  and  the  departure  of  the  French, 
bringing  an  end  to  all  the  balls  and  enter¬ 
tainment,  was  lamented  by  all  of  them.  In 
fact  so  deeply  and  touchingly  did  some  of 
these  young  ladies  deplore  the  absence  of 
their  admirers,  that  several  of  the  latter  re¬ 
turned  to  Newport  and  staged  a  great  final 
ball  for  their  consolation,  a  gay  and  color¬ 
ful  affair,  much  like  a  festival. 

How  well  the  women  of  Rhode  Island  to¬ 
day  can  match  their  forebears  we  should  not 
dare  to  say.  Perhaps  we  may  agree  with  the 
comment  made  by  Louis,  Baron  de  Closen, 
one  of  Rochambeau’s  aides,  who  said  in  his 
Journal  .  .  .  “perhaps  one  of  the  prettiest 
islands  on  the  globe  [is  Rhode  Island]” 
.  .  .  and  “nature  has  endowed  the  ladies  of 
Rhode  Island  with  the  handsomest,  finest 
features  one  can  imagine;  their  complexion 
is  clear  and  white;  their  feet  and  hands  un¬ 
usually  small.”  Certainly  we  should  be 
prudent  to  do  so.  But  maybe  there  is  some 
essence  missing  today  to  make  the  same 
beauty,  or  at  least  its  atmosphere,  complete. 
When  the  youth  of  today  speaks  of  his  fair 
partner  as  “an  awfully  good  fellow”  he 
doubtless  has  little  of  the  feeling  of  “his 
ancestor,  who  used  to  wait  at  the  street 



corner  to  see  the  object  of  his  devotion  go 
by  under  the  convoy  of  her  father  and 
mother  and  a  couple  of  footmen,  thinking 
himself  happy,  meanwhile,  if  his  divinity 
gave  him  a  shy  glance.”  And  today’s 
piquant  young  miss,  driving  her  sport  car 
with  an  ease  and  abandon  which  would 
have  startled  her  ancestors,  is,  despite  “her 
charms,  quite  different  from  the  blushing 
little  beauty  of  1780,  who,  in  powdered 

hair,  quilted  petticoat,  and  high  red-heeled 
shoes,  gave  her  lover  a  modest  little  glance 
at  the  street  corner,  thinking  it  a  most  de¬ 
licious  and  unforeseen  bit  of  romance  to 
have  a  lover  at  all.” 

We  have  journeyed  on  some  150  years 
since  that  time,  but  there  may  well  be  times 
when  we  could  wish  that  we  were  French 
officers  in  Newport  and  that  the  year  was 
again  1780. 


Like  the  old  Arcade  which  stands  as  a 
monument  to  the  business  life  of  old- 
time  Providence,  the  old  Market  House  at 
the  foot  of  College  Hill,  though  threatened 
on  various  occasions  with  destruction,  has 
remained  for  nearly  a  hundred  and  fifty 
years  to  strengthen  its  increasing  import¬ 
ance  as  a  local  landmark.  About  both  of 
these  antiquities  is  a  good  deal  of  that  intan¬ 
gible  romance  which  time  alone,  if  nothing 
else,  brings.  And  as  the  Arcade  becomes 
more  and  more  prominent  in  sharp  contrast 
with  the  new  Providence  which  grows 
toweringly  about  it  on  all  sides,  so  the  Mar¬ 
ket  House  attains  a  new  significance  as  the 
city  builds,  and  re-arranges,  and  expands 
all  about  it. 

Back  in  the  1770’s  it  looked  out  upon  a 
community  that  was  industrious  and  thriv¬ 
ing.  Providence  was  at  that  time  growing  in 
direct  relationship  with  its  sea  trade,  and 
ships  sent  out  to  all  ports  of  the  world  by 
enterprising  Providence  merchants  were 
constantly  returning  with  full  cargoes  to 
make  a  bustle  of  unloading  at  the  many 
wharves.  Those  were  the  years  of  the  stage¬ 
coaches,  of  the  infancy  of  Brown  Univer¬ 
sity  (then  the  College  of  the  English  Colony 
of  Rhode  Island  and  the  Providence  Planta¬ 
tions),  of  dirt  streets,  of  many  busy  little 
shops.  Those  were  the  times  of  home-trad¬ 
ing,  times  when  the  farmers  from  the  out¬ 
lying  countryside  used  to  drive  into  the 
city  with  their  wagon  loads  of  produce  and 
hawk  their  wares  about  the  streets  in  search 
of  buyers,  following  no  set  routes  but  driv¬ 
ing  haphazardly  wherever  the  whims  of 
business  might  lead. 

Back  in  1758,  David  Bucklin  voiced  the 
need  of  a  common  place  for  the  buying  and 
selling  of  wares  and  produce  in  his  petition 
to  the  General  Assembly  for  permission  to 
have  a  Market  House  built  for  his  own  use 
on  town  property.  He  had  chosen  as  a  site, 
land  at  the  east  end  of  the  old  Weybosset 
Bridge,  but  was  unable  to  buy  the  land  out¬ 
right.  The  matter  started  a  great  deal  of 
public  discussion,  resulting  in  his  being 
given  permission  to  build  a  market  house  at 
his  own  expense.  However,  the  unfortunate 
applicant,  who  could  not  purchase  the  site, 
had  even  less  money  to  build  a  market 
house.  And  there  the  matter  ended  for  al¬ 
most  fifteen  years. 

It  came  up  again  in  a  letter  addressed  to 
the  Providence  Gazette  and  printed  in  1768. 
But  again  the  citizens  of  the  town,  though 
active  enough  in  other  respects,  were  slug¬ 
gish  in  sensing  the  need  for  a  Market  House. 
Several  more  years  passed  with  nothing 
done,  but  in  1771  plans  were  started.  That 
year  a  petition  was  drawn  up  and  presented 
to  the  General  Assembly  by  the  townspeople 
as  a  whole,  asking  for  the  immediate  estab¬ 
lishment  of  a  Market  House  for  the  common 
good.  But  the  town,  like  David  Bucklin,  had 
no  money  for  such  an  enterprise,  and  the 
only  recourse  was  to  a  lottery. 

Lotteries  had  played  a  large  part  in  the 
development  of  early  Rhode  Island  Institu¬ 
tions,  being  then  totally  free  from  the  stigma 
which  hangs  over  them  now.  The  First  Bap¬ 
tist  Church,  Brown  University,  and  many 
other  public  buildings  were  financed  in 
part,  if  not  in  whole,  by  this  method.  And  it 
seems  very  odd  and  rather  amusing  that,  in 
a  time  when  theatres  were  prohibited,  such  a 



practice  should  have  been  not  only  con¬ 
doned  but  enthusiastically  supported.  Tic¬ 
kets  for  the  Market  House  lottery  had  a 
large  sale,  and  the  actual  scheme  of  the 
lottery  was  as  follows:  “Granted  by  the 
Honourable  General  Assembly  of  the 
Colony  of  Rhode  Island,  to  raise  Four 
Thousand  Five  Hundred  Dollars,  for  build¬ 
ing  a  Market-House  in  the  Town  of  Provi¬ 
dence.  This  lottery  will  be  divided  into  five 
classes,  each  class  to  consist  of  2,000  tickets. 

“The  managers  appointed  are  Moses 
Brown,  James  Lovett,  and  David  Harris  of 
Providence  and  Elisha  Mowry  Jun.,  of 
Smithfield,  who  have  given  bond  for  the 
faithful  performance  of  their  trust.” 

A  lot  of  controversy  arose  over  the  choos¬ 
ing  of  a  site  for  this  community  building, 
but  the  original  site  selected  by  David  Buck- 
lin  so  many  years  before  was  finally  taken. 
However,  this  site  was  then  covered  with 
water  and  had  to  be  filled  in  before  build¬ 
ing  could  commence.  John  Brown  took  a 
contract  to  do  this  preliminary  work.  Final 
plans  were  completed  by  Joseph  Brown  and 
Stephen  Hopkins  and  the  building  begun 
in  May,  1773. 

Lumber  came  from  mills  at  Johnston  and 
Cumberland  and  bricks  from  Rehoboth  by 
way  of  the  river.  And  on  Saturday,  June 
12th,  the  Providence  Gazette  echoed  the  en¬ 
thusiasm  of  the  people  in  the  notice:  “Tues¬ 
day  last  the  first  stone  of  the  Market  House 
was  laid  by  Nicholas  Brown,  Esq.”  The 
famous  Brown  brothers,  as  you  probably 
have  noticed,  were  again  as  prominent  in 
this  public  undertaking  as  in  many  others. 

The  start  had  been  made  but  the  building 
progressed  slowly.  Yet,  upon  the  completion 
of  the  first  story  in  1774,  a  great  celebration 
took  place,  and  the  rejoicing  of  the  work¬ 
men  and  people  was  aided  by  their  tremen¬ 
dous  consumption  of  potent  New  England 
rum.  Whether  it  was  actually  their  pride  in 
the  new  Market  House  or  simply  a  desire 
for  another  convivial  gathering  (enhanced 
by  rum)  that  brought  them  together  again 
within  a  month,  nevertheless  they  re-assem- 
bled  to  acclaim  the  addition  of  a  second 
story.  This  jovial  old  custom,  which  was 
always  carried  out  (though  to  a  lesser  ex¬ 
tent)  in  the  raising  of  any  large  building, 
principally  “barn  raisings,”  unhappily 
passed  away  many  years  ago. 

Once  finished,  the  Market  House  sprang 
into  life.  Silas  Downer,  who  had  made  the 
noted  Liberty  Tree  address,  was  made  the 
clerk  of  the  Market  and  had  offices  on  the 
second  floor.  The  lower  floor  was  given  over 
to  trading  and  was  open  with  the  stalls  in 
the  places  of  the  full  length  windows,  which 
were  substituted  later.  The  stalls  were  built 
in  1776  and  auctioned  to  the  highest  bidders 
in  the  following  year. 

But  there  were  other  matters  of  far  more 
importance  to  detract  from  the  importance 
of  the  new  Market  House.  The  war  years 
were  beginning  and  all  Providence  was 
astir.  Private  business  was  submerged  in 
the  patriotism  which  demanded  the  undi¬ 
vided  attention  of  all  to  matters  of  state. 
Throughout  these  years  the  Market  House, 
along  with  other  public  institutions,  was 
used  when  necessary  to  aid  the  war  needs  of 
the  colonists.  In  Brown  University  the 
French  allies  under  Rochambeau  housed 
many  of  their  sick,  while  the  Market  House 
was  appropriated  by  the  War  Council  as  a 
storage  place  for  grain.  Later,  the  French 
not  only  stored  their  personal  baggage  in 
the  Market  House  but  occupied  it  over  night 
as  a  quarters.  When  they  departed  from  the 
city,  they  left  a  guard  over  the  munitions 
and  provisions  stored  there. 

With  the  ending  of  the  war,  the  Market 
House  regained  its  normal  activity.  It 
served  in  its  original  capacity,  and  also 
became  more  and  more  of  a  civic  center  in 
other  ways.  The  town  clerk  had  his  office 
on  the  second  floor,  and,  for  a  long  while,  it 
was  suggested  that  the  lower  floor  be  re¬ 
modelled  and  used  as  a  town  hall.  Mean¬ 
while  the  Masonic  Fraternity  within  the 
city  had  been  growing  steadily,  meeting  like 
many  an  infant  organization  wherever  it 
could,  in  taverns,  private  homes,  and  the 
like.  But,  in  1797,  the  St.  John  Chapter 
added  a  third  story  to  the  Market  House  and 
used  it  for  Fraternal  rooms.  Where  the 
clock  is  now,  was  a  tablet  with  the  Masonic 
emblems.  And  in  the  Market  House,  on 
August  23,  1802,  Thomas  Smith  Webb  or¬ 
ganized  Saint  John’s  Encampment  Number 
One,  Knights  Templars,  the  oldest  Templar 
organization  in  the  country.  Until  1853,  the 
building  served  as  a  meeting  place  for  mem¬ 
bers  of  this  fraternity,  and  many  a  conven- 



tion  was  held  within  its  walls,  but,  in  that 
year,  the  growing  organization  was  obliged 
to  move  to  more  commodious  quarters. 

For  a  while  the  Providence  Fire  Depart¬ 
ment  housed  an  engine  on  the  first  floor  of 
the  Market  House.  And  so  time  passed  on, 
bringing  changes  on  every  hand.  The  Great 
Gale  of  1815  whirled  its  waters  about  the 
old  building  and  drove  ships  up  against  it. 
Fires  swept  the  city,  and  drastic  changes 
came  in  the  transition  from  commerce  to 
manufacturing.  But  still  the  Market  House 
maintained  its  importance.  Its  second  floor 
was  continually  used  by  the  town  for  public 
offices,  where  the  Town  Council  met,  and 
finally  the  building  became  the  City  Hall  in 
1865,  serving  in  this  capacity  until  the 

present  City  Hall  was  erected  in  1878.  The 
last  transfer  of  occupancy  brought  the 
building  into  the  hands  of  the  Board  of 
Trade,  in  1880,  an  organization  which  has 
since  become  the  Chamber  of  Commerce, 
and  which  has  continued  to  occupy  the 
building  to  the  present  time. 

Not  without  some  protests  has  the  build¬ 
ing  survived  in  all  its  historic  glory.  In  1898 
and  again  in  1906  movements  were  started 
to  abolish  the  building  in  order  to  widen 
the  square.  However,  in  both  instances  there 
were  those  to  whom  we  may  be  thankful 
who  would  not  stand  to  have  traditions  so 
lightly  swept  aside,  and  through  their  cham¬ 
pionship  the  time-scarred  structure  has  re¬ 
mained  for  us  to  cherish. 


“  What  snatches  of  romance ,  both  sad  and  sweet. 
Lie  tramped  obscure  beneath  Time’s  marching 

hat  snatches  of  romance  indeed!  Lost 
in  the  unwritten  annals  of  history 
within  this  State  alone  is  a  world  of  romance. 
But  every  once  in  a  while  we  come  upon 
some  fragment  of  this  world,  finding  it  as 
we  might  find  some  piece  of  classic  statuary 
among  the  buried  ruins  of  ancient  Greece  or 
Rome.  And,  like  many  an  excavated  piece  of 
sculpture,  we  find  our  fragments  imperfect 
even  in  themselves — their  beginning  and 
ending,  perhaps,  broken  off  with  only  a  few 
intervening  years  intact. 

The  romance  of  Captain  John  Willard 
Russell  and  Nancy  Smith  of  Bristol  is  such  a 
fragment,  incomplete  in  a  whole  bulk  of 
detail,  but  of  an  unusual  purity  in  its  main 
outline.  In  this  case,  descriptions  of  our 
characters  are  missing,  and  the  events  of 
whole  years  in  their  lives  are  unknown.  Yet 
there  is  the  thread  of  a  story,  illusive  though 
it  may  be,  running  through  the  love  letters 
and  ship  logs  of  this  forgotten  sea  captain, 
and  that  is  worth  following. 

Captain  Russell  was  bom  in  1770,  prob¬ 
ably  in  Connecticut,  for  there,  three  genera¬ 
tions  of  his  ancestors  had  lived  before  him. 
His  great-grandfather  had  been  one  of  the 
ten  ministers  to  found  Yale  University,  in 
1700;  his  grandfather  had  also  been  a  min¬ 

ister;  and  his  father  had  been  with  Washing¬ 
ton  at  Valley  Forge.  With  these  men  for 
forefathers,  he  had  a  strong  commingling  of 
the  blood  of  patriots  and  Puritans  in  his 
veins,  blood  which  gave  tone  to  his  whole 

He  was  the  first  of  his  family  to  turn  to 
the  sea,  nor  did  he  do  so  at  once.  He  went 
westward  in  1796  and  pioneered  his  way 
through  New  York  State  to  Michigan,  where 
he  settled  with  a  few  companions  at  Presque 
Isle.  Two  years  later,  he  was  sailing  from 
Virginia  to  the  West  Indies  on  his  first  voy¬ 
age,  and  by  the  next  year,  when  he  came  to 
Bristol,  had  been  twice  captured  by  French 
privateers,  imprisoned  at  Petit  Ance,  bereft 
of  all  his  possessions,  jailed  for  debt  in 
Philadelphia,  but  finally  successful  on  a 
second  voyage  as  master  of  a  sloop  which  he 
sold  in  the  West  Indies. 

At  Bristol,  his  employer  was  Charles 
DeWolf,  who  placed  him  in  command  of  the 
schooner  “Nancy”  and  sent  him  on  a  first 
voyage  to  Havana.  Before  he  left  Bristol, 
however,  he  was  entertained  at  the  DeWolf 
home  and  there  met  Abbey,  the  daughter  of 
his  employer,  and  her  friend  and  cousin, 
Nancy  Smith.  It  was  about  time  for  the 
young  shipmaster  (then  twenty-nine)  to  let 
his  fancy  stray  toward  thoughts  of  love.  This 
first  meeting  was  in  the  springtime — in  May, 
and  undoubtedly  the  young  captain  sailed 



away  from  his  fair  Bristol  friends  with 
many  new  and  delightful  emotions  to  thrill 
and  trouble  him.  The  two  Bristol  girls  had 
made  him  promise  to  drink  their  health 
every  Saturday  night  at  nine  o’clock  during 
his  voyage,  and  agreed  to  toast  him  at  the 
same  hour.  The  first  Saturday  out  he  encoun¬ 
tered  a  severe  gale  and  did  not  recall  his 
promise  until  the  next  day,  but  he  drank  then 
to  the  friends  left  behind  in  Bristol.  The  fol¬ 
lowing  Saturday  he  was  punctual  to  the 
minute,  and  writes  in  a  letter  the  next  day, 
“Heark  ye  there — You  Bristol  Girls — how 
went  the  cheerful  bottle  last  night — I  fear 
you  have  already  forgotten  your  engage¬ 
ment,  while  I  at  the  appointed  hour  swigged 
my  Saturday  night’s  allowance  and  reli¬ 
giously  toasted.” 

The  voyage  was  full  of  many  vicissitudes. 
The  West  Indies  were  the  rendezvous  of 
privateers  and  the  whole  atmosphere  of  the 
place  was  “rough  and  ready.”  Before  Cap¬ 
tain  Russell  got  back  to  Bristol,  he  had  been 
robbed  and  imprisoned  by  vandals  at  St. 
Cruz,  freed  too  late  to  make  the  “Nancy,” 
whose  mate  had  sailed  off  without  him,  and 
forced  to  take  a  passage  in  another  ship 
bound  for  Boston.  But  through  it  all  he 
remembered  his  toasts  to  Miss  DeWolf  and 
Nancy  Smith,  and  found  his  ship,  the 
“Nancy,”  safe  in  Bristol  upon  his  arrival. 

Once  again  he  was  able  to  have  a  short 
visit  with  the  girls,  but  almost  immediately 
he  had  to  make  plans  for  a  voyage  to 
Africa  for  slaves.  This  type  of  trade  he 
heartily  disliked,  and  yet  he  was  no  prig. 
Later  in  his  life  he  writes:  “This  Africa,  my 
friend,  ruins  the  health  and  takes  the  lives 
of  nine-tenths  who  are  concerned  in  it  and 
poisons  the  morals  of  most  of  the  survivors.” 

This  voyage,  made  in  the  brig  “Com¬ 
merce,”  was  ill-fated.  Captain  Russell  lost 
some  of  his  crew  through  sickness  and 
finally  had  to  give  up  his  ship  to  French  pri¬ 
vateers.  But  he  succeeded  in  getting  back  to 
Bristol  sometime  during  the  year  1801.  Dur¬ 
ing  this  year  he  must  have  wooed  and  won 
Nancy  Smith,  judging  by  his  letters  to  her 
during  subsequent  voyages.  He  writes  to  a 
friend:  “She  is  not  a  beauty — yet  in  her 
presence  beauties  would  be  discontented 
with  themselves — at  first  she  scarcely  ap¬ 
pears  pretty — but  the  more  she  is  known  the 
more  agreeable  she  appears — she  gains 
where  others  lose — what  she  gains  she  never 

loses — without  much  knowledge  of  the 
world  she  is  attentive,  obliging,  and  grace¬ 
ful  in  all  she  does.” 

He  always  called  her  “My  dear  friend,” 
even  in  letters  to  her  after  she  had  become 
his  wife.  During  his  period  of  courtship, 
when  he  was  walking  the  deck  of  a  ship 
alone,  with  a  full  moon  shining  overhead, 
he  thought  of  her  and  of  nights  in  Bristol 
and  wrote  to  her  all  sorts  of  courtly  jniceties, 
asking  her  to  remember  him  always  when 
the  moon  is  high,  to  have  indulgence  for  his 
letters,  and  to  try  and  love  him  as  he  loves 
her.  “Reserve  a  little  berth  (in  your  heart) 
— will  you — for  your  friend?”  he  pleads. 

The  delicacy  of  his  manners  and  his  whole 
attitude  of  deference  and  respect  for  this 
girl  whom  he  loved  all  his  life  marks  him 
apart  from  a  host  of  more  rudely-mannered 
mariners.  His  letters  bear  the  stamp  of 
real  literature  and  he  could  write  some  cred¬ 
itable  poetry  on  occasion.  He  had  a  deep 
appreciation  of  art  and  good  books,  and  yet 
he  was  wholly  a  self-educated  man. 

In  June,  1802,  he  married  his  sweetheart, 
Nancy,  and  remained  ashore  for  a  two- 
months’  honeymoon,  but  all  too  soon  he  had 
to  be  off  on  the  high  seas  again.  This  was  a 
man  who  was  made  for  great  love,  who 
should  never  have  been  separated  from 
happy  companionship  with  his  wife  ashore. 
But  he  had  to  voyage  forth  and  back  to  the 
West  Indies  and  even  to  Europe,  working 
always  with  the  hope  that  he  might  be  able 
to  retire  some  day,  writing  as  often  as  he 
could  and  sending  his  letter  by  any  ship  that 
was  bound  for  any  port  near  Bristol,  and 
waiting  for  return  letters  from  his  “Friend.” 

“You  can  have  some  idea  of  my  sensa¬ 
tions  when  for  the  first  time  I  feasted  on  a 
letter  from  my  wife,”  he  writes  from 
Havana,  in  1802,  yet  several  years  later  he 
could  say:  “This  I  know,  that  the  longer 
our  Union  has  been,  the  stronger  I  find  the 
ties  that  bind  me  to  you  and  to  happiness, 
and  that  the  frequency  of  being  separated 
from  you,  so  far  from  lessening  the  pain, 
only  adds  to  its  poignancy.” 

In  1803,  little  Betsy,  the  first  child,  was 
born,  while  he  was  held  up  waiting  for  a 
cargo  at  Havana.  His  love  for  the  child 
was  almost  overwhelming,  and  we  find  him 
writing  so  anxiously  to  Nancy  about  its  up¬ 
bringing.  “Will  you  teach  her,  my  love,  to 
lisp  Papa’s  name  in  his  absence — will  you 



teach  her  to  talk  of  him  and  teach  her  to  love 
him?”  he  writes,  when  he  is  on  a  long  voy¬ 
age  to  Holland.  This  was  the  longest  sep¬ 
aration  from  his  loved  ones,  nearly  six 
months  in  all,  and  there  was  no  way  of  his 
hearing  from  Nancy  all  the  while.  But  he 
wrote  to  her — long  letters  that  he  put  away 
in  one  big  packet  until  he  found  a  ship  go¬ 
ing  to  Boston.  He  visited  Antwerp  and 
wrote  of  the  beautiful  cathedral,  built  there 
by  the  Spaniards,  with  its  82  bells  ringing 
every  seven  and  one-half  minutes  and  its 
great  clock.  He  met  a  Danish  sea  captain 
and  took  him  as  a  passenger  to  Copen¬ 
hagen,  visiting  the  latter’s  home  there  and 
playing  with  his  children  though  not  under¬ 
standing  a  word  of  their  language.  But  he 
only  longed  for  Bristol  the  more  after  this, 
writing:  “God  grant  that  I  may  spend  the 
evening  of  my  days  in  peace  and  com¬ 
petence  in  the  bosom  of  those  I  love.”  And 
then  again:  “Why,  my  dear  Nancy,  would 
you  marry  a  sailor?” 

But  soon  he  was  on  his  way  home  once 
more,  writing  with  the  zest  of  a  sailor:  “It 
does  not  now  blow  quite  a  gale — though 

the  water  is  still  flying  over  our  Decks — 
but  we  are  used  to  it — heigh-ho ! ! ! — ”  In 
1805  and  1806  he  turned  again  to  the  West 
India  trade,  and  it  was  during  that  time  his 
second  daughter,  Parnell,  was  born. 

Then  he  was  writing  to  his  three  darlings, 
Betsy  now  talking  and  walking,  the  new 
babe,  and  his  constant  sweetheart,  Nancy. 
The  moonlight  nights  still  affected  him  as 
in  his  courting  days.  He  longed  to  be  home, 
but  adversity  kept  that  day  just  beyond  his 
reach.  In  1809,  a  third  daughter,  little 
Nancy,  was  born  and  then,  in  1810,  a  first 
son.  But  in  this  year  came  the  supreme 
tragedy  of  his  life — the  friend  and  sweet¬ 
heart  to  whom  he  had  been  writing  so  long 
died,  sending  his  hopes  of  future  happiness 
crashing  about  him.  He  had  just  built  a 
new  home  opposite  that  of  James  DeWolf, 
but  there  was  now  no  incentive  to  move  in. 
He  did  finally  secure  the  help  of  a  friend, 
a  maiden  lady  who  took  care  of  the  child¬ 
ren  and  kept  house  for  him,  but  his  own 
heart  was  broken,  and  he  died  in  1814. 
Fate  had  stolen  his  romance,  and  only  left 
tragedy  in  its  place. 


IN  the  mind  of  the  average  person,  the 
word  “slavery”  invariably  associates  it¬ 
self  with  one  of  three  things:  Lincoln,  the 
South,  or  the  Civil  War.  In  1860,  the  issue 
of  slavery  reached  the  exploding  point, 
after  smouldering  for  more  than  a  century. 
Perhaps,  because  at  that  time,  Lincoln,  the 
South,  and  the  Civil  War  were  all  links  in 
the  bitter  struggle  over  slavery,  many  peo¬ 
ple  think  only  of  the  four  war  years.  It 
seldom  occurs  to  them  that  slavery  was  ac¬ 
cepted  and  even  exploited  by  the  most 
righteous  citizens  of  every  community  for 
long  years  in  the  early  history  of  the  coun¬ 
try.  In  the  exploitation  of  the  slave  trade, 
Rhode  Island  was  the  leader  among  the 
New  England  states. 

As  early  as  1696,  Rhode  Island  had  im¬ 
ported  a  first  shipload  of  negroes  from 
Africa,  men  and  women  who  were  disposed 
of  at  $150  and  $175  each.  In  the  years  im¬ 
mediately  following,  up  to  1708,  there  was 

no  great  demand  for  slaves.  Then  Rhode 
Island  merchants  began  to  realize  where 
lay  the  path  to  fortune,  and  the  triangular 
business  of  rum,  sugar,  and  slaves  came 
into  existence.  From  Newport,  ships  sailed 
to  Africa  with  rum.  Exchanging  the  rum 
for  negroes,  the  captains  then  set  sail  for 
the  Barbadoes  where  the  human  cargo  was 
exchanged  for  one  of  sugar  and  molasses, 
the  ships  then  returning  to  Newport  to  stock 
up  with  rum  again.  Negroes  were  still  im¬ 
ported  as  the  years  went  on  but  a  $15  duty 
was  levied  upon  each  one  brought  into  New¬ 
port.  With  this  money  the  streets  of  that 
fashionable  town  were  renovated  and 

By  1739,  Newport  had  become  the  great 
slave  mart  of  America,  as  London  and 
Bristol  were  for  England.  The  triangular 
business  brought  in  the  wealth  that  was  the 
very  foundation  of  Newport’s  society  and 
culture.  To  supply  the  rum,  between 
twenty  and  thirty  distilleries  were  operat- 



ing  steadily.  The  ships  setting  out.  for 
Africa,  would  each  take  about  140  hogs¬ 
heads  of  the  liquor,  together  with  a  supply 
of  provisions,  muskets,  and  assorted 
shackles.  A  cargo  of  rum  could  be  ex¬ 
changed  for  120  negroes,  after  the  traders 
had  bargained  with  the  native  chieftains. 
When  the  slaves  were  sold  at  the  Barbadoes, 
they  brought  a  profit  of  from  $60  to  $125 
dollars  each,  so  that  the  owners  of  the 
vessels — Newport  merchants — cleared  the 
goodly  sum  of  $9,000  or  $10,000  on  each 
cargo.  This,  it  must  be  remembered,  was 
exclusive  of  the  profit  reaped  on  the  cargo 
of  sugar  and  molasses  taken  on  at  the  Bar¬ 
badoes  and  brought  to  Newport.  Small 
wonder  that  the  slave  trade  took  on  all 
the  aspects  of  a  “boom”  during  the  years 
from  1739  to  1760. 

When  the  Revolution  broke  into  the  order 
of  things  and  upset  Newport  in  its  heigh- 
day  of  wealth  and  culture,  it  also  broke  up 
the  triangular  slave  trade  that  had  made  so 
many  fortunes.  In  1774,  there  had  been  a 
law  prohibiting  the  importation  of  slaves 
into  Rhode  Island.  After  the  Revolution, 
in  1787,  Rhode  Islanders  were  forbidden 
to  engage  in  any  foreign  slave  trade,  and 
by  1803,  Federal  laws  had  been  passed 
prohibiting  foreign  slave  trade  to  all 
American  citizens.  But,  the  slave  merchant 
got  around  these  enactments  by  trading 
with  South  Carolina.  That  State  had  also 
forbidden  slave  importations  in  1788,  but 
the  law  had  failed  of  enforcement,  and  in 
1803  was  repealed.  Rhode  Island  mer¬ 
chants  immediately  sent  great  numbers  of 
slave  ships  to  Charleston,  Newport  mer¬ 
chants  vieing  with  those  of  Bristol.  In  1791, 
William  Ellery,  himself  a  Newporter, 
wrote:  “An  Ethiopian  could  as  soon  change 
his  skin  as  a  Newport  merchant  could  be 
induced  to  change  so  lucrative  a  trade  as 
that  in  slaves  for  the  slow  profits  of  any 
manufactory.”  But,  in  1807,  Congress 
passed  a  law  forbidding  absolutely  and 
for  all  time  the  traffic  in  slaves  and  the 
cruel  practice  was  at  last  brought  to  a  close. 

Although  Rhode  Island  merchants  had 
clung  to  the  slave  trade  with  so  much  ten¬ 
acity,  it  did  not  mean  for  a  moment  that 
they  were  strong  adherents  of  slavery  it¬ 
self.  In  1874,  the  General  Assembly  had 
passed  an  act  authorizing  the  manumission 
of  all  slaves,  and  provided  that  no  persons 

born  in  the  State  after  the  first  day  of  the 
year  1784,  be  they  black  or  white,  should 
be  slaves  for  life.  Slavery  was  abolished 
very  early,  then,  as  a  Rhode  Island  insti¬ 

Thus,  by  the  time  this  particular  story 
begins,  the  Rhode  Island  negroes  had  known 
freedom  for  some  twenty-five  years.  They 
had  become  a  distinct  element  in  society 
and,  because  of  their  former  intimate  as¬ 
sociations  with  the  better  class  of  white 
people,  were  not  even  as  poorly  treated  as 
some  of  the  lower  class  of  whites.  Many  of 
the  slaves  had  had  kind  masters,  and  free¬ 
dom  had  not  been  a  priceless  possession 
in  their  eyes.  So  they  lived  on  under  the 
new  conditions,  some  owning  houses  and 
little  plots  of  land,  others  simply  staying 
on  in  the  households  to  which  they  had  be¬ 
come  so  well-accustomed. 

Of  these,  Cuddymonk  was  of  the  former 
class.  In  1811,  he  was  living  in  his  little 
home  near  Lake  Petaquamscut  in  old 
Narragansett,  in  perfect  contentment  with 
his  wife,  Rosann.  He  was  well  liked  by  the 
whites  with  whom  he  had  a  certain  measure 
of  influence.  He  was  a  good  cobbler,  a 
fair  tinker,  a  poor  mason,  a  worse  car¬ 
penter,  but  a  fine  fisherman,  and,  of  course, 
extremely  cheerful.  During  the  various 
seasons  of  the  year  he  harvested,  planted, 
fiddled,  or  raked  for  his  white  neighbors. 
Among  his  own  people  his  position  was 
outstanding.  Three  times  he  had  been  elec¬ 
ted  “Black  Gov’nor”  of  Narragansett,  on 
the  grand  “  ’Lection  Day”  which  came 
round  each  year  on  the  3rd  Saturday  of 
June.  Some  of  the  negroes  elected  in  the 
past  had  won  the  election  on  the  strength 
of  some  outstanding  quality  or  past  ex¬ 
ploit,  but  Cuddymonk  was  chosen  simply 
because  he  was  a  “pollertishun.” 

The  office  was  an  honorary  one.  It  of¬ 
fered  no  attendant  salary,  merely  a  wealth 
of  prestige.  Called  upon  as  a  judge  in 
many  disputes  between  members  of  his 
own  race,  the  “Black  Gov’nor”  was  also 
employed  by  the  whites  to  impart  certain 
information  to  the  negroes  or  to  handle 
some  minor  bits  of  business  between  them¬ 
selves  and  the  blacks. 

Gov’nor  Cuddymonk  had  his  portion  of 
prestige.  In  fact  no  one  had  ever  made  a 
better  “gov’nor.”  His  only  great  and  life¬ 
long  weakness  was  one  as  true  to  his  race 



as  the  color  of  his  skin.  This  was  his  fear 
of  the  unnatural — the  negro’s  hereditary 
superstition.  Cuddymonk  did  not  hesitate 
to  practice  all  kinds  of  witch  charms,  “con¬ 
jures,”  and  “projects,”  though  he  always 
professed  to  be  a  member  in  good  standing 
of  the  “Pistikle  Church.”  Great  was  his 
fear  of  the  dark,  and  the  spooks  and  “moon- 
acks”  it  contained.  It  was  just  this  great 
superstition  that  made  him  fear  to  take  the 
job  of  driving  for  old,  rheumatic  Dr. 
Greene.  Cuddymonk  had  protested  in  vain. 
Rosann,  skoffing  both  at  his  fear  of  ghosts 
and  his  laziness,  made  him  report  to  the 
doctor,  and  Cuddymonk’s  era  of  terror  be¬ 
gan.  Dr.  Greene  had  scores  of  night  calls, 
and  the  frightened  negro  had  many  a  drive 
over  dark  country  roads,  past  the  little 
private  graveyards  that  he  so  much  feared. 

One  evening,  when  Cuddymonk  had  be¬ 
gun  to  think  that  there  would  be  no  call  for 
him  to  go  out,  young  Joe  Champlin  dashed 
up  on  horseback  demanding  the  doctor. 
Knowing  that  the  Champlin  Farm  lay  be¬ 
yond  Boston  Neck,  Cuddymonk  tried  all 
kinds  of  subterfuge,  hoping  to  be  allowed 
to  stay  at  home.  But  the  doctor  was  ob¬ 
durate.  Scarcely  giving  poor  Cuddymonk 
time  to  put  on  his  coat  and  waist-coat  inside 
out  (a  sure  protection  against  ghosts),  he 
made  him  drive  off. 

It  was  a  dreary  ride.  The  doctor  was  by 
nature  extremely  taciturn,  and  Cuddymonk 
did  not  even  have  a  chance  to  talk  and  re¬ 
lieve  himself  of  his  many  fears.  Whenever, 
he  had  to  get  down  from  the  carriage  to 
open  a  highway  gate,  it  was  with  the  most 
fearful  apprehensions.  In  his  supersti¬ 
tious  eyes  every  shadow  assumed  evil  pro¬ 
portions,  and  the  whisper  of  the  wind 
through  the  trees  seemed  to  be  the  dismal 
moaning  of  spooks  and  “moonacks.” 

At  the  Champlin  Farm  Cuddymonk 
again  tried  to  dissuade  the  doctor  from 
driving  any  further  that  night,  but  the 
old  physician  told  him  to  be  ready  to 
start  back  in  half  an  hour.  On  the  return 
journey,  Cuddymonk  was  even  more  sensi¬ 
tive  to  shadows  and  graveyards  for  Ruth, 
the  Champlin’s  colored  cook,  in  an  at¬ 
tempt  at  sympathy,  had  filled  the  suscept¬ 
ible  “Cuddy”  with  all  the  ghost  stories  she 
knew.  The  trip  home  might  have  been  un¬ 
eventful,  but  for  the  doctor’s  decision  to 
return  by  way  of  Pender  Zeke’s  corner  and 

pass  the  foundation  and  graveyard  of  the 
old  Narragansett  Church.  At  the  mention 
of  the  dreaded  spot,  Cuddymonk  broke 
down.  But  again  he  pleaded  in  vain,  for  the 
doctor  reprimanded  him  severely  and  or¬ 
dered  him  to  drive  on. 

With  his  eyes  rolling  in  terror  and  moan¬ 
ing  to  himself  Cuddymonk  drove  on  until 
he  came  to  the  church.  Then  with  a  wail  of 
fright  and  despair,  he  suddenly  gave  way 
entirely.  Even  the  doctor  himself  was 
startled,  for  there  ahead  of  them  by  the  road¬ 
side  a  tall  eerie  shape,  human-like,  was  pal¬ 
pitating  and  glowing  with  an  uncanny  light. 
The  doctor  tookthe  reins  from  Cuddymonk’s 
nerveless  hands  and  brought  the  horse 
to  a  stop.  When  he  started  to  climb  out  of 
the  carriage  to  investigate  the  weird  shape, 
the  negro  came  to  life,  startled  out  of  his 
lethargy,  and  threw  his  arms  about  the 
doctor  imploring  him  not  to  venture  from 
the  carriage  and  leave  him  behind.  But 
the  doctor’s  curiosity  had  been  aroused, 
and  he  was  determined  to  solve  the  mys¬ 
tery.  In  passing  through  the  graveyard  of 
the  church  he  stumbled  and  fell  into  an 
open  grave,  half -filled  with  water.  Not  at 
all  frightened  but  fearing  fresh  attacks  of 
rheumatism,  he  shouted  for  Cuddymonk  to 
come  and  pull  him  out.  He  might  as  well 
have  called  upon  a  stone  statue  for  help; 
the  negro  had  lost  the  power  to  move. 

Unassisted,  the  doctor  clambered  out  of 
the  grave  and  stubbornly  made  his  way  to¬ 
ward  the  ghost.  When  he  reached  the  ap¬ 
parition  he  paused,  said  nothing,  but  im¬ 
mediately  returned  to  the  carriage.  Grasp¬ 
ing  the  terrorized  negro  by  the  collar,  he 
fairly  dragged  him  toward  the  shimmering 
white  shape.  Only  when  he  had  the  poor 
black  directly  before  the  dreaded  “moon- 
ack”  did  he  say,  “Look  at  the  ghost, 

What  was  it?  Merely  a  shad  bush  in 
full  bloom,  its  myriads  of  white  blossoms 
seeming  to  glow  in  the  moonlight.  In  a 
sudden  revulsion  of  feeling  Cuddymonk 
almost  fainted. 

The  doctor,  having  solved  the  mystery, 
again  began  to  think  of  his  rheumatism, 
and  telling  Cuddymonk  to  drive  as  fast  as 
possible,  directed  him  toward  the  nearest 
farmhouse.  There  the  old  doctor  woke  up 
the  inhabitants  and  secured  treatment  for 
his  rheumatism  as  well  as  shelter  for  the 



night.  As  he  started  to  go  to  bed,  he  called 
Cuddymonk  and  told  him  to  continue  on 
home,  tell  Mrs.  Greene  of  the  mishap,  and 
return  for  him  in  the  morning.  Solemnly 
assenting,  Cuddymonk  left  the  doctor  to 
sleep  in  peace.  But  once  downstairs  the 
negro  followed  an  idea  of  his  own.  He  un¬ 

harnessed  the  horse  and  led  him  to  a  stall 
in  the  barn  adjoining  the  farmhouse,  then 
clambered  into  the  hay  in  the  loft  and 
slept  the  night  through. 

In  the  morning  he  woke  early,  hitched 
up  the  horse,  and  was  waiting,  as  he  had 
promised,  before  the  door. 


John  DeWolf,  known  as  “Nor’west 
John,”  was  of  the  third  generation  of  the 
famous  Bristol  family  which,  along  with 
Captain  Simeon  Potter,  played  a  prominent 
part  in  making  the  name  of  the  old  Rhode 
Island  seaport  known  throughout  the  world. 
Seaports  sometimes  seem  to  rise  and  wane 
not  only  with  the  passing  years  but  with  the 
various  changes  in  ships  and  shipping  that 
come  inevitably  with  invention  and  prog¬ 
ress.  Bristol’s  fame  as  a  seaport  is  now  but 
historical,  for  her  day  was  the  day  of  square 
riggers  and  packets.  In  that  day,  however, 
she  bred  men  whose  skill  and  daring  upon 
the  high  seas  was  second  to  none. 

When  John  DeWolf  was  born,  in  Bristol, 
in  1799,  his  uncle,  James  DeWolf,  later 
the  owner  of  the  famous  “Yankee”  and 
other  privateers,  had  already  acquired 
a  pretty  thorough  knowledge  of  the  sea  for 
he  was  master  of  his  first  vessel  at  the  age  of 
twenty.  But  the  former  was  a  close  rival  of 
his  uncle  for  he  went  to  sea  at  the  age  of 
thirteen  and  received  his  first  ship  at  the  age 
of  twenty-four.  When  he  sailed  this  ship, 
the  “Juno,”  out  of  Bristol,  in  1804,  he  began 
a  series  of  voyages  and  travels  which  car¬ 
ried  him  completely  around  the  world,  and 
he  did  not  see  Rhode  Island  again  for  three 
years  and  eight  months.  Upon  his  return  to 
his  native  town  he  continued  in  Russian- 
American  trade  until  he  retired  from  the 
sea  at  the  age  of  forty-eight.  For  a  while  he 
remained  in  Bristol,  taking  up  the  life  of  a 
farmer,  then  moved  to  a  farm  in  Brighton, 
Massachusetts,  and  thence  to  Dorchester, 
where  he  spent  the  last  years  of  his  life  with 
his  daughter,  Mrs.  Downing.  Here  he  died, 
in  1872,  at  the  age  of  ninety-two. 

His  granddaughter  provides  us  with  a 
tenderly  written  sketch  of  his  last  years. 

She  writes:  “I  never  knew  a  more  beautiful 
old  age.  Beloved  by  those  of  all  ages,  he 
had  many  friends  among  the  young  people 
and  was  young  with  them,  and  his  grand¬ 
children  were  devoted  to  him.  They  called 
him  ‘White  Grandpa,’  on  account  of  his 
silvery  hair,  to  distinguish  him  from  my 
father.  They  always  knew  in  just  what  spot 
in  the  room  to  look  for  candy  and  fruits 
which  he  always  had  for  them,  and  if  there 
was  anything  they  particularly  wanted  they 
were  always  sure  that  ‘White  Grandpa’ 
would  give  it  to  them.  Like  so  many  old 
people  it  was  hard  for  him  to  adapt  himself 
to  modern  improvements.  And  especially 
the  new  ideas  of  shipbuilding  were  not 
always  to  his  liking.  At  the  window  of  a 
room  in  our  summer  home,  commanding  a 
fine  view  of  Boston  harbor,  we  would  often 
find  him  holding  his  spyglass  at  arm’s 
length,  and  if  sometimes  we  would  ask, 
‘What  do  you  see,  Grandpa?’  he  would 
invariably  reply,  ‘I  was  looking  at  those 
blasted  three-masted  schooners’.”  During 
his  seafaring  days,  three-masters  were 
unknown  and  even  schooner-rigged  vessels 
were  rare,  and  he  had  never  outgrown  his 
preference  for  the  old  square  sails  of  the 
brigs  and  merchantmen. 

So  much  as  a  brief  resume  of  his  life. 
Now  to  relate  the  tale  of  his  first  and 
most  exciting  voyage  as  ship’s  master.  The 
“Juno”  was  a  sturdy  vessel  of  two  hundred 
and  fifty  tons.  She  had  just  previously 
brought  into  Bristol  the  first  cargo  to  be 
received  from  China  and  was  generally  con¬ 
sidered  a  crack  ship.  She  was  armed  with 
eight  carriage  guns  and  other  smaller  pieces 
and  seemed  much  like  a  warship  as  she 
stood  out  of  Narragansett  Bay  bound  for 
the  Northwest  Coast  with  young  John 
DeWolf  in  command. 



Near  the  Cape  of  Good  Hope  the  Rhode 
Islanders  fell  in  with  the  ship  “Mary”,  of 
Boston,  also  bound  for  the  Northwest  Coast, 
and  agreed  to  keep  company  with  her  in 
rounding  the  Cape.  But  after  the  negligence 
of  the  latter’s  helmsman  had  resulted  in  a 
broadside  collision  of  the  two  vessels,  the 
“Juno”  went  on  alone.  Shortage  of  provi¬ 
sions  and  fuel  made  Captain  John  head  for 
Valparaiso,  in  spite  of  the  fact  that  he  would 
thus  expose  himself  to  Spanish  hostility. 
There  was  a  good  deal  of  fuss  about  his  com¬ 
ing  into  the  harbor,  but  he  was  finally 
allowed  to  provision  up  and  proceed  on  his 

The  next  long  course  was  set  for  Newettee, 
a  small  inlet  in  Vancouver’s  Island,  where 
the  Rhode  Islanders  expected  to  begin  their 
first  trading  with  the  natives.  In  entering 
the  narrow  straits  to  the  harbor  the  vessel, 
because  of  a  lack  of  wind,  was  swept  by  the 
strong  currents  within  oars’  length  of  the 
high  cliffs,  and  the  crew  had  a  difficult  time 
in  keeping  her  off  the  rocks.  The  Indians  in 
this  vicinity  were  hardened  to  trading  with 
white  men  and  were  much  too  avaricious  in 
their  demands,  and  the  “Juno”  again  put 
out  to  sea,  this  time  headed  northward  for 
a  Russian  settlement  at  Norfolk  Sound. 
Here  the  Americans  met  with  excellent 
treatment  at  the  hands  of  the  Russian  gov¬ 
ernor  and  succeeded  in  disposing  of  a  lot  of 
rum,  tobacco,  molasses,  sugar,  rice,  wooden 
ware,  and  cloth  in  return  for  sea  otter  pelts. 

The  “Juno”  then  turned  back  down  the 
coast,  stopping  at  many  little  harbors  to 
trade  with  the  natives  and  frequently  having 
to  display  her  full  armament  to  discourage 
threatened  attacks,  until  she  again  reached 
Newettee.  Leaving  this  harbor  and  heading 
northward  once  more,  she  sailed  far  up  the 
Chatham  Straits  and,  on  coming  out,  struck 
on  the  rocks  and  was  lodged  there  high  and 
dry.  That  the  Indians  might  not  suspect  the 
actual  mishap,  Captain  John  ordered  his 
crew  to  go  overboard  and  seemingly  pro¬ 
ceed  to  work  on  the  hull  of  the  vessel,  as  if 
they  had  driven  her  upon  the  rocks  to 
accomplish  this  very  end.  The  ruse  worked 
(and  the  crew  did  actually  make  some 
needed  repairs),  and  with  high  tide  the 
“Juno”  floated  off  successfully.  This  unfor¬ 
tunate  occurrence  had  given  the  crew  a 
good  chance  to  inspect  the  vessel  and  note 
the  immediate  need  of  a  complete  overhaul¬ 

ing,  so  Captain  John  determined  to  return  to 
the  friendly  Russian  settlement  where  full 
repairs  could  be  made  without  the  accom¬ 
panying  danger  of  Indian  attacks.  On  the 
way  the  “Mary”  was  sighted,  and  she  pro¬ 
ceeded  to  the  settlement  with  the  “Juno.” 

The  governor  again  received  Captain 
John  with  hospitality.  The  “Juno”  was 
speedily  hauled  up  on  shore  and  recondi¬ 
tioned.  The  thousand  otter  skins  already  in 
the  “Juno’s”  hold  were  sent  on  to  Canton, 
China,  by  the  “Mary.”  Meanwhile  a  Rus¬ 
sian  brig  arrived  at  the  settlement,  bring¬ 
ing  three  lieutenants  of  the  Russian  Navy; 
Nicholas  Resanoff,  a  powerful  nobleman, 
and  Dr.  George  Langsdorff,  from  Germany. 
Captain  John  was  introduced  to  them  all 
by  the  Russian  governor,  and  within  a  short 
time  sold  the  Russians  the  “Juno”  for 
$68,000,  getting  a  small  Russian  brig  to 
boot.  In  the  latter  vessel,  with  a  cargo  of 
572  sea  otter  skins,  Captain  John  sent  his 
crew  and  officers  on  to  Canton,  but  he,  him¬ 
self,  accepted  the  invitation  of  the  Russians 
to  remain  at  the  settlement  through  the 
winter.  They  promised  to  take  him  on  with 
them  to  Ochotsk  and  St.  Petersburg  in  the 

It  was  a  rather  long  and  dreary  winter 
for  the  Rhode  Island  sea  captain  for  the 
whole  population  of  Russians  and  Aleu¬ 
tians  was  kept  hard  at  work  and  he  was  left 
much  to  himself.  However,  he  made  a  close 
friend  of  Dr.  Langsdorff,  who  was  an  ardent 
naturalist,  and  with  him  roamed  all  about 
the  surrounding;  country  in  “baidarkas” 
(log  canoes),  encountering  many  Indians 
who,  although  hostile  to  the  Russians, 
accepted  the  two  explorers  with  good  grace. 
When  the  winter  became  too  strenuous  for 
even  the  Russians  to  be  outside,  games  and 
square  dances  were  held  in  the  larger  log 
buildings  to  cheer  them  up  during  the  long 

In  the  spring  the  Russians  were  slow 
about  keeping  their  promise  to  Captain 
John,  and  he  finally  asked  them  to  let  him 
take  one  of  their  smaller  vessels  and  go  on 
by  himself.  To  this  they  were  glad  to  assent, 
and  he  sailed  away  in  the  brig  “Russisloff,” 
taking  a  crew  of  seven  Russians  and  natives, 
and  Dr.  Langsdorff  as  a  personal  compan¬ 
ion.  They  sailed  north,  touching  at  various 
points  along  the  coast  of  Alaska.  At  Illuluk 
they  picked  up  a  woman  and  her  daughter 



who  wished  to  go  back  to  their  native  town 
of  Irkutsk,  in  Siberia.  But,  inasmuch  as  the 
ship  had  not  left  the  Russian  settlement 
until  August  and  was  a  very  slow  sailer,  the 
chances  of  reaching  Ochotsk  before  autumn 
were  slim,  and  rather  than  proceed  to  that 
port  and  have  to  cross  Siberia  in  the  winter, 
Captain  John  decided  to  spend  the  cold 
months  at  Kamtchatka.  Here  his  explora¬ 
tions  continued,  for  he  purchased  a  sledge 
and  dog  team  and  soon  became  an  expert 
driver.  The  “Juno,”  which  had  overtaken 
the  “Russisloff ,”  also  wintered  here. 

In  the  spring  the  “Juno”  broke  out  of  the 
ice  and  got  on  her  way  first,  but  Captain 
John  was  not  slow  to  follow  and  reached 
Ochotsk  in  June.  Here  he  left  the  sea  and 
his  good  friend  Dr.  Langsdorff  and  started 
a  long  journey  by  horseback  across  Siberia, 
in  company  with  a  small  band  of  Russians. 
He  reached  Yakutsk  and  there  took  to  the 
water  again,  assuming  command  of  a  small 
river  craft  and  sailing  it  up  to  Irkutsk.  Here 
he  was  again  joined  by  Dr.  Langsdorff  who 

had  been  pushing  on  in  small  boats  to  over¬ 
take  him.  But  Captain  John’s  immediate 
destination  was  St.  Petersburg,  and  he  took 
leave  of  his  friends  and  set  out  in  a  sort  of 
rude  carriage  for  his  goal,  3,500  miles  away. 
This  was  in  August,  1807,  but  by  October 
the  traveler  had  reached  St.  Petersburg. 
Here  he  learned  that  his  original  crew  and 
officers  had  returned  to  Bristol  and  that  the 
net  profits  of  the  undertaking  had  amounted 
to  $100,000. 

Thus  there  was  nothing  further  for  him 
to  do  but  return  home.  He  sailed  for  a  short 
way  down  the  Baltic  as  a  passenger  on  a 
Dutch  galiot,  but  shortly  sighted  an  Amer¬ 
ican  vessel  homeward  bound  for  Portland. 
Transferring  to  her,  he  had  a  forced  stay  of 
two  months  in  Liverpool  while  she  under¬ 
went  repairs,  but  finally  reached  Bristol 
again  on  April  1st,  1808.  This  is  the  barest 
outline  of  a  real  tale  of  adventure,  but  it 
shows  that  Rhode  Island  was  early  repre¬ 
sented  among  the  travelers  around  the 


Sail  ho!  That  was  the  call  of  the  look¬ 
out  for  years  and  years  of  navigation. 
Sails!  Since  the  beginning  of  all  recorded 
time  men  have  used  them.  They  were  spread 
in  ancient  days  above  the  tiny  craft  of  the 
adventurous  Tyronese.  They  drove  the 
famed  Phoenician  merchant  vessels  to  all 
the  ports  of  the  Mediterranean.  They  urged 
the  Grecian  galleys  on  to  conquest  and  colo¬ 
nization,  and  they  lent  their  aid  to  the 
warriors  of  Carthage  and  the  sturdy  Roman 
conquerors.  Trader,  Viking,  discoverer, 
and  pirate,  men  of  peace  and  men  of  war 
have  all  raised  their  sails  high  on  the  masts 
of  their  ships  and  fared  forth  upon  the 
unknown  expanses  of  the  trackless  sea. 

In  all  history  sails  have  aided  men,  ex¬ 
tending  his  commerce,  assisting  in  his  wars, 
and  making  possible  the  thousands  of  voy¬ 
ages  which  gave  him  understanding  and 
control  of  the  world.  Now  the  end  has  come. 
Sails  have  fallen  to  the  level  of  playthings. 
The  spotless  sails  of  the  graceful  little 

sloops  and  racing  yachts  which  one  sees  in 
society’s  harbor  and  the  dirty  sails  of  some 
solitary  two  or  three-master  slinking  down 
the  coast  are  both  totally  unworthy  of  com¬ 
parison  with  those  of  the  gallant  vessels 
which  formerly  sailed  the  seas.  Of  course 
such  a  sweeping  statement  is  not  completely 
true.  Here  and  there  some  tiny  little  port 
like  Gloucester,  Massachusetts,  still  has  its 
hardy  sailors  and  its  white-sailed  ships  both 
dependent  on  the  wind  for  service  and  a 
living.  But  very  rarely,  in  this  day  of  coal 
and  oil  burners,  are  seen  the  tall  masts  of 
a  ship,  crossed  by  spars  intended  for  the 
carrying  of  sails,  and  gone  from  the  sea  is 
that  most  beautiful  of  all  the  maritime 
works  of  man — the  clipper  ship. 

What  were  these  clippers  that  have  won 
a  place  in  the  heart  of  every  lover  of  the  sea? 

We  must  go  back  to  the  early  days  of 
exploration,  when  the  Americas  were  just 
coming  into  prominence  as  lands  of  hidden 
wealth  and  promise.  In  those  days  when 
the  great  English  trading  companies 
were  formed,  one  must  be  mentioned.  The 



British  East  India  Company  probably  did 
the  greatest  amount  of  trading  the  world 
had  seen  up  to  its  time,  and  the  success  of 
this  company  was  due  to  one  thing  alone — 
the  magnificent  British  East  India  ships. 
They  were  built  like  frigates  and  moved 
with  all  a  frigate’s  stateliness.  Their  officers 
wore  dress  uniforms;  their  finer  appoint¬ 
ments  were  of  mahogany  and  brightly 
polished  brass;  and  their  snow-white  sails 
were  one  mighty  cloud  of  canvas. 

But  in  these  majestic  vessels  there  were 
no  radical  changes  in  the  lines  of  the  hulls, 
or  the  cut  and  number  of  sails.  The  old 
models  were  simply  duplicated  in  larger 
sizes.  These  ships  were  still  the  clumsy  and 
slow  vessels  that  their  predecessors  had 
been.  They  took  eighteen  months  for  the 
round  trip  to  India,  proceeding  leisurely, 
little  dreaming  of  the  downfall  that  was  to 

The  monopoly  which  England  held  on 
the  East  India  trade  was  the  guardian  of 
these  ships  and  their  leisure.  With  the 
rising  competition  in  trade  by  other  na¬ 
tions,  changes  began  to  appear  which  pres¬ 
aged  the  end  of  the  East  India  merchant¬ 
men.  From  1832,  the  way  was  paved  for 
the  immediate  development  of  the  clipper, 
but  even  for  a  while  before  that  some  of  the 
precedents  which  had  safeguarded  the  old- 
time  ships  had  been  broken  down. 

Probably  the  American  packet  lines, 
which  began  to  win  fame  on  the  Atlantic 
shortly  after  the  close  of  the  War  of  1812, 
were  the  most  devastating  of  all  the  in¬ 
fluences  which  were  to  prove  fatal  to  the 
supremacy  of  England  and  her  grand  East 
India  merchantmen.  These  American-built 
vessels  were  the  forbears  of  the  great  trans¬ 
atlantic  lines  which  now  operate  between 
America  and  Europe.  They  were  the  direct 
result  of  the  great  increase  in  commerce  and 
the  rapid  development  of  manufacturing. 
They  sailed  on  time  always,  and  made  a 
specialty  of  carrying  only  passengers,  mail, 
and  bullion.  For  the  men  who  were  begin¬ 
ning  to  realize  that  speed  was  beginning  to 
count  in  industry  and  commerce  as  never 
before  they  were  a  necessity  and  a  Godsend. 
These  small  packets  did  their  utmost  to 
make  rapid  crossings  of  the  Atlantic.  They 
crowded  on  all  sail  possible,  riding  through 
gales  under  full  sail  when  the  East  India 
ships  would  have  cut  down  to  only  a  small 

square  of  canvas.  Naturally  they  obtained 
more  passengers  than  the  slower  vessels, 
and  just  as  naturally  they  were  a  tremend¬ 
ous  source  of  profit  to  the  owners. 

However,  before  these  packets  had  begun 
to  disappear  from  the  lanes  of  the  sea,  the 
designers  who  had  planned  them  were  al¬ 
ready  building  a  new  type  of  vessel  which 
was,  in  turn,  to  surpass  them  as  they  had 
surpassed  the  British  East  Indiamen.  These 
were  to  be  the  clipper  ships. 

The  first  clipper  ships  were  not,  in  the 
present  day  meaning  of  the  word,  clipper 
ships  at  all.  They  were  only  the  small  swift 
vessels  that  were  developed  on  Chesapeake 
Bay  at  the  time  of  the  War  of  1812.  They 
were  small  and  attracted  very  little  atten¬ 
tion  at  the  time.  But,  even  the  real  clippers 
when  they  first  appeared  were  small.  A 
Baltimore  firm  built  the  first  one  in  1832, 
christening  her  the  “Ann  McKim.”  Her 
distinguishing  points  were  her  very  narrow 
beam  and  her  skysails.  The  latter  had  never 
before  been  used  by  any  type  of  ship 

Although  the  “Ann  McKim”  turned  out 
to  be  a  very  fast  ship,  she  failed  to  influence 
nautical  design.  It  was  a  young  man  named 
Griffeths  who  designed  the  clipper  which 
set  the  pace  for  all  American  shipbuilders. 
This  ship  was  the  “Rainbow.”  She  had  all 
of  the  features  of  her  predecessors  and,  in 
addition,  had  a  new  type  of  hollow  bow,  a 
sharper  prow  and  stern,  and  a  very  narrow 

Despite  the  adverse  comment  of  critics, 
she  not  only  sailed  but  made  a  voyage  to 
China  in  92  days  and  a  return  trip  in  88. 
Clipper  ships  were  the  immediate  vogue  in 
American  shipping  circles  after  this  feat. 
They  set  new  records  on  nearly  every  voy¬ 
age  completely  outclassing  the  famed 
British  merchant  marine.  They  were  built 
larger  and  larger,  one,  “The  Great  Repub¬ 
lic,”  having  a  tonnage  of  4,500  tons.  Some 
of  these  swift  vessels  could  average  between 
twelve  and  fifteen  knots  on  long  cruises,  a 
record  better  than  the  majority  of  steam 
vessels  can  set  today. 

And  Rhode  Island  was  not  behind  in 
her  share  of  these  vessels.  Not  a  few  of  the 
clippers  were  built  on  the  shores  of  Narra- 
gansett  Bay,  at  Fox  Point  shipyards,  now 
extinct.  In  particular  did  the  shipping  firm 
of  Edward  Carrington,  a  gentleman  and 



military  leader  of  the  old  school,  build  and 
maintain  a  fleet  of  these  ships.  In  this 
fleet  was  the  “Carrington”  a  splendid  ship 
which  carried  many  tons  of  valuable  mer¬ 
chandise  to  foreign  ports,  and  which  re¬ 
paid  the  Providence  firm  many  times  over 
for  its  building.  The  white  sails  of  the 
clippers  were  as  frequent  in  these  Rhode 
Island  waters  as  in  almost  any  other  port, 
and  they  did  their  share  in  building  up  the 
shipping  industry  of  Providence. 

The  last  clipper  built  in  Providence  was 
the  “Haidee,”  that  eventually  became  a 
“slaver.”  The  date  of  her  completion  was 
1853,  and  she  was  the  last  ship  to  be  built 
in  Providence.  Despite  the  beauty  of  the 

little  vessel,  she  was  destined,  because  of  her 
calling,  to  be  outlawed,  and  was  finally 

The  days  of  the  clippers  came  to  an  end 
shortly  after.  Steam  began  to  be  too  power¬ 
ful  an  adversary.  Within  a  few  years  the 
great  white  sails  were  gone  from  the  hori¬ 
zons  of  the  Seven  Seas.  Even  the  English 
clippers — built  later  than  those  of  America 
— also  disappeared,  and  the  only  substitutes 
were  the  smudges  of  smoke  which  marked 
the  triumph  of  steam.  Steam  has  won,  but 
where  in  the  present  day  can  one  find  in  the 
mechanical  perfection  of  an  ocean  liner, 
the  thrill  of  acres  of  billowing  canvas, 
stretching  before  the  wind? 


PRACTICALLY  every  community  has  its 
eccentric  individuals  and  rare  per¬ 
sonalities — if  one  searches  them  out — but 
in  the  thickly  populated  cities  and  larger 
towns  of  the  present  day  they  are  apt  to  be 
absorbed  by  the  life  about  them  and  not  so 
outstanding  as  in  the  days  of  a  century  or 
more  ago.  Then,  whole  families  were  gener¬ 
ally  well  known  throughout  long  stretches 
of  countryside,  while  individuals  with  espe¬ 
cial  charm  or  some  rare  abilities  would  be 
famed  the  length  and  breadth  of  the  Col¬ 
ony.  And  servants  as  well  as  masters  shared 
in  such  renown.  Many  held  honored  places 
in  the  families  they  had  served  for  several 
decades  and,  though  colored,  were  held  in 
the  greatest  respect  by  whites  and  negroes 
alike.  It  is  in  a  few  of  these  old-time  serv¬ 
ants  as  well  as  in  a  number  of  picturesque 
characters  among  others  of  their  race  that 
we  shall  herein  be  interested.  In  olden  days 
in  Rhode  Island,  negro  servants  were- 
employed  almost  exclusively,  and  it  is  these 
romantic-souled  people  who  were  found  on 
many  a  farm,  the  women  bustling  in  the 
height  of  their  glory  about  the  kitchen  or 
rocking  the  younger  children  in  the  nurs¬ 
ery,  the  men  working  in  the  fields  or  regal¬ 
ing  a  group  of  admiring  youngsters  with 
some  of  the  tall  tales  that  only  a  negro 
could  invent. 

One  of  the  most  noted  negro  characters 
of  Narragansett,  especially  after  the  Revo¬ 
lution,  was  Old  Guy.  He  had  been  a  volun¬ 
teer  and  had  served  through  the  war  in  Col¬ 
onel  Greene’s  regiment,  a  fact  which,  in  his 
opinion  at  least,  was  greatly  to  the  advan¬ 
tage  of  this  country.  Certainly  the  war  pro¬ 
vided  him  with  abundant  raw  material  from 
which  to  weave  all  sorts  of  tales  to  recite 
solemnly  to  circles  of  pop-eyed  children. 
Invariably  he  was  the  hero  in  all  such  tales, 
and  on  scores  of  occasions  he  had  saved  the 
fortunes  of  the  country  by  some  deed  of 
timely  bravery. 

Whatever  his  actual  exploits  may  have 
been,  the  government  saw  fit  to  provide  him 
with  a  pension  in  addition  to  his  freedom; 
and  ever  after  his  prestige  among  his  own 
people  was  heightened  enormously.  Every 
Independence  Day  found  his  tall,  military 
figure  among  the  rest  of  the  war  veterans  on 
parade,  and  on  nearly  every  “Nigger  ’Lec¬ 
tion  Day”  he  filled  some  position  of  honor. 

But  let  us  go  on.  There  was  that  famed 
old  soothsayer,  Silvia  Tory.  She  was  a  thin 
and  angular  old  woman,  harmless  enough 
despite  her  “evil”  eye  and  general  air  of 
gloomy  mystery.  She  had  her  cabin  on  a 
tract  of  land  called  the  “Minstrel”  (mean¬ 
ing  “ministerial”)  because  of  its  owner- 



ship  was  a  subject  of  dispute  between  Dr. 
MacSparran  of  the  Episcopal  Church  and 
Dr.  Torrey  of  the  Congregational  parish. 
From  the  latter  Silvia  took  her  surname, 
claiming  to  be  the  last  of  his  slaves. 

Young  people  often  came  to  call  upon 
her,  bringing  small  amounts  of  tea  as  gifts 
in  order  to  inveigle  her  into  telling  their 
fortunes.  She  was  easily  persuaded  and 
would  retire  into  a  separate  room  with  each 
one  of  a  group,  there  to  make  mysterious 
incantations  over  a  “drawing  of  tea”  before 
unveiling  the  events  of  the  future.  For  girls 
she  had  one  invariable  formula,  guaranteed 
to  be  acceptable.  She  would  prophesy  the 
coming  of  a  handsome  suitor  with  a  “dark, 
but  fair”  complexion  who  would  involve 
the  lucky  girl  in  a  whole  series  of  “crosses 
and  losses”  before  she  married  him  in  the 
end.  “And,”  she  always  concluded,  “you’ll 
live  happy  ever  after,  in  a  fine  home  on  a 
high  hill  with  wood  on  one  side  and  water 
on  the  other.” 

But  in  addition  to  pleasing  young  people, 
Silvia  took  on  many  a  serious  commission 
from  older  folk.  To  her  they  came  when 
they  had  reason  to  think  some  of  their  live¬ 
stock  had  been  stolen  or  lost,  and  she  would 
give  them  all  sorts  of  minute  occult  direc¬ 
tions  for  its  location  and  recovery.  Per¬ 
haps  it  is  strange  to  think  of  mature  per¬ 
sons  following  the  solemn  advice  of  this 
old  crone,  especially  since  the  time  was 
about  1850,  yet,  up  to  her  death  at  the  age 
of  104  years,  Silvia  never  lacked  clients. 

Of  course,  no  rural  community  would  be 
replete  without  its  one  all-capable  and  fav¬ 
orite  musician.  In  Old  Narragansett,  one 
Polydore  Gardiner  filled  the  bill.  He  was 
a  free  man  and  a  landowner  besides,  though 
his  father  had  been  a  slave  before  him,  and 
had  his  little  hut  on  the  untillable  pasture 
land  of  the  Matoonuc  Hills.  Polydore  was 
a  fiddler  by  profession,  one  who  knew  each 
and  every  old  tune  that  was  calculated  to 
send  feet  tapping  and  dancing.  An  affable 
old  fellow,  he  was  always  willing  to  lend 
his  incomparable  services  to  many  an  old- 
time  dance  and  he  enjoyed  a  reputation  of 
great  note. 

Old  Patience  would  have  made  a  better 
character  for  a  soothsayer  than  Silvia  Tory 
as  far  as  her  general  appearance  was  con¬ 
cerned.  She  was  a  wild-looking  individual, 
a  wanderer  and  pensioner,  caustic  of  tongue 

and  wit,  who  drifted  about  the  countryside 
at  will,  keeping  aloof  from  most  of  her  own 
people.  For  her  “Cousin  Is’bel,”  however, 
a  servant  in  the  household  of  Dr.  George 
Hazard,  of  South  Kingston,  she  had  great 
respect.  In  the  kitchen  over  which  this 
cousin  presided  she  would  sit  for  hours  at 
a  time,  huddled  into  the  chimney  corner 
and  neither  stirring  or  speaking  unless 
spoken  to.  Those  who  poked  fun  at  her 
knew  the  full  force  of  her  sharp  tongue, 
but  she  was  not  always  bitter-tempered. 
Under  the  influence  of  a  bit  of  kindness  she 
would  become  communicative  and  would 
talk  of  “Master  Isaac,”  a  former  master 
whom  she  had  tended  as  a  child.  This  per¬ 
son  was  always  hailed  by  the  old  woman 
as  the  very  incarnation  of  virtue.  With  a 
group  of  interested  girls  for  an  audience 
she  would  launch  into  a  splendid  eulogy; 
and,  although  it  is  extremely  doubtful 
whether  any  of  them  ever  gave  her  any  cause 
for  such  a  statement,  would  usually  end  her 
free-flowing  praise  by  saying, 

“Now  be  a  good  girl,  missy,  and  treat 
the  old  woman  well,  and  maybe  she’ll  speak 
a  good  work  or  two  to  Master  Isaac.” 

“Cousin  Is’bel”  merited  every  bit  of 
respect  Old  Patience  gave  her.  Her  real 
name  was  Isabella  Remington,  and  she  had 
been  the  slave  of  Edward  Hull  until  she 
decided  to  continue  in  the  service  of  Hull’s 
daughter  who  married  George  Hazard. 
With  this  family  she  lived  until  her  death, 
except  for  a  short  interlude  which  she  spent 
in  Newport. 

She  dressed  neatly  and  well  in  a  black 
gown,  covered  by  a  working  smock  of 
dark  blue  calico,  and  always  wore  a  snow- 
white  “mob-cap.”  She  was  an  extremely 
capable  person  and  regarded  more  as  a 
friend  than  a  servant.  Cheerful,  calm,  and 
benevolent,  she  was  loved  by  everyone, 
especially  children,  and  was  a  highly- 
privileged  member  of  the  Hazard  house¬ 
hold.  Aunt  Ibby  was  her  name  to  all  her 
friends  and  she  had  many. 

She  was  a  person  whose  simple  charm 
and  honest  personality  would  be  a  credit 
to  one  of  any  race,  and  she  held  the  deep 
confidence  and  respect  of  both  whites  and 
blacks  throughout  her  life.  In  her  old  age 
her  mistress  gave  her  a  separate  home  on 
the  estate,  and  here  she  continued  to  receive 
her  visitors,  living  peacefully  and  happily 



until  her  death.  As  a  final  token  of  the 
esteem  in  which  she  was  held,  she  was  bur¬ 
ied  in  the  burial  ground  of  the  Ancient 
Friend’s  Meeting  House  of  Narragansett. 

These  were  all  renowned  characters  of 
Old  Narragansett,  but  there  is  yet  one  miss¬ 
ing.  What  sketch  of  this  kind  could  fail  to 
mention  the  most  noted  of  all  negro  retain¬ 
ers  —  Gambia.  That  voluble  and  keenly- 
imaginative  individual  had  been  included 
in  the  paternal  inheritance  of  Willett  Car¬ 
penter  of  North  Kingston,  and  was  a  free¬ 
man.  He,  too,  was  particularly  beloved  by 
children  to  whom  his  stories  of  the  Guiana, 
from  which  he  had  come,  were  always  fas¬ 
cinating.  He  claimed  to  be  the  last  of  a  line 
of  kings  and  would  delight  in  describing  his 
father’s  domain. 

“Lived  in  a  great  palace,  oh  ever  so  big; 
and  you  go  in  at  the  silver  door,  up  the 
gold-iron  teppitones,  and  over  the  door  was 
a  pretty  little  gold-iron  dog.”  Asked  what 
he  meant  by  “gold-iron”  he  would  say, 

“Oh  better  than  iron  and  handsomer  than 
gold,  gold-iron  was.  Well,  and  when  you 
go  up  the  teppitones,  and  pound  with  the 
knocker  the  peart,  sassy  little  dog,  he  bark! 

And  then  you  go  through  long,  long  entries 
till  last  you  come  to  the  gold-iron  throne 
and  the  king  sitting  on  it,  beautifully 
dressed  in  white  man’s  clothes.  British  cap¬ 
tains  have  made  his  father,  oh  such  fine 
presents;  Gambia  don’t  know  how  many!” 

But,  like  many  of  his  race,  Gambia  would 
rather  talk  than  work.  He  loved  riddles  and 
enjoyed  his  own  stories  as  much  as  his 
hearers.  When  asked  how  churning  was 
done  in  his  own  land  he  said,  “Oh  the  king, 
my  father,  have  great  large  round  trench 
made  and  lined  all  with  white  shining 
stone.  Then  pour  in  cream  and  fill  all  up  to 
top.  Then  the  king’s  beautiful  white  horses 
— twenty  trained  horses  they  were — they 
just  go  down  the  steps  and  prance  around 
a  little  and  in  three-five  minutes  butter 

There  were  probably  scores  of  other 
characters  like  Gambia,  Aunt  Libby,  Poly- 
dore,  and  the  others,  but  these  were  particu¬ 
larly  outstanding  in  Old  Narragansett. 
What  ever  else  they  did  they  certainly 
added  something  to  the  life  of  the  day, 
more  of  that  something  which  the  present 
cannot  quite  seem  to  recapture. 


Rhode  Island  has  had  a  finger  in  all 
sorts  of  diverse  enterprises  and  move¬ 
ments,  both  religious  and  secular,  since  its 
founding  by  that  venerated  free-thinker, 
Roger  Williams.  In  the  most  obscure  as 
well  as  the  most  prominent  corners  of  the 
world,  its  name  has  occurred  in  connection 
with  the  careers  and  exploits  of  seamen,  ex¬ 
plorers,  artists,  statesmen,  merchants,  in¬ 
ventors,  and  religious  leaders.  So  many 
things  have  either  had  their  birth  or  first 
impetus  in  this  State,  or,  on  the  other  hand, 
their  last  ratification,  that  in  any  discussion 
of  them  the  name  “Rhode  Island”  must  play 
an  important  part.  Yet,  despite  the  fact 
that  at  some  time  or  other  Rhode  Island  has 
espoused  nearly  every  known  kind  of  reli¬ 
gion,  the  mention  of  Rhode  Island  and 
Mormonism  in  the  same  breath  is  rather 
startling.  Perhaps,  because  Mormonism  and 
Salt  Lake  City  are  almost  synonymous,  the 

average  Rhode  Islander  of  today  does  not 
realize  that,  again,  in  this  connection  his 
State  has  played  its  part. 

Of  course,  both  of  the  two  great  leaders 
of  Mormonism  were  sons  of  Vermont  and 
came  from  strict  old  Puritan  stock.  The 
move  westward  to  Salt  Lake  City  was  a  very 
gradual  one,  although  it  was  speeded  up  in 
1846  when  the  Mormons  were  driven  out  of 
Ohio.  The  inhabitants  of  Brigham  Young’s 
native  town,  Whitingham,  Windham  County, 
Vermont,  have  always  been  among  the 
foremost  in  denouncing  both  him  and  his 
principles,  therein  proving  once  more  that 
the  prophet  is  without  honor  in  his  own 
country.  Yet,  in  many  ways,  such  an  atti¬ 
tude  redounds  only  to  the  discredit  of  those 
who  maintain  it,  and  these  very  inhabitants, 
in  not  acknowledging  the  greatness  of  the 
man,  regardless  of  his  unconventional  be¬ 
liefs,  have  simply  “cut  off  their  nose  to  spite 
their  face.” 



Joseph  Smith  had  first  conceived  and 
preached  the  doctrines  of  Mormonism  some 
nineteen  years  before  Brigham  Young  even 
heard  of  the  religion.  The  latter  was  born 
in  1801  into  a  very  poor  family.  The  father 
had  moved  his  family  from  Vermont  to 
New  York  when  Brigham  Young  was  a  boy 
and  here  he  was  raised  in  an  environment 
well-steeped  in  Methodism.  Young  grew  up 
to  be  quite  an  agnostic,  despite  his  environ¬ 
ment.  He  gradually  learned  considerable 
about  all  the  religions  which  were  prevalent 
not  only  in  New  York  as  a  whole  but 
throughout  New  England  and  found  none 
of  them  to  his  liking.  Finally  he  became  a 
Methodist  at  the  age  of  twenty-three  merely 
to  avoid  disagreeable  dissension  within  his 
own  family.  Seven  years  slipped  by,  and 
then  Brigham  Young  came  into  possession 
of  a  copy  of  the  book  which  the  Mormons 
had  published  in  1830  and  in  which  they 
set  forth  fully  the  doctrines  upon  which 
their  religion  was  founded.  For  two  years 
he  studied  the  volume  carefully  and  then,  in 
1832,  became  a  convert.  With  him  in  this 
drastic  step  was  his  wife,  Miriam  Works, 
whom  he  had  just  married.  Whether  it  was 
the  influence  of  the  book  or  the  persuasion 
of  his  father  and  brothers  who  had  become 
converts  before  him,  which  gained  his  con¬ 
version,  or  the  more  worldly  idea  of  an 
opportunity  to  make  money,  is  not  known. 
But  whatever  the  underlying  reasons  for  his 
adoption  of  the  new  faith,  he  became  its 
ardent  disciple  and  missionary. 

In  the  same  year  of  his  conversion  his 
wife  died,  and  he  moved  to  Kirtland,  Ohio, 
in  company  with  the  family  of  his  closest 
friend.  This  town  was  the  citadel  of  Joseph 
Smith,  then  the  self  -  heralded  Mormon 
leader  and  prophet,  and  it  was  from  this 
town  that  Brigham  Young  made  many 
successful  missionary  pilgrimages  back 
through  the  section  of  the  country  in  which 
he  had  been  reared.  Perhaps  he  passed 
through  Providence  at  that  time,  although 
there  is  no  record  to  substantiate  such  an 
inference.  It  was  in  Providence,  however, 
that  his  second  legal  wife-to-be  was  then 

She  was  Mary  Ann  Angell,  a  descendant 
of  a  family  which  played  a  large  part  in 
the  founding  and  later  history  of  Provi¬ 
dence  and  Rhode  Island.  The  home  in 
which  she  was  born  in  1804  and  in  which 

she  lived  as  a  girl  and  young  woman  is  still 
standing  at  the  foot  of  Fruit  Hill  on  Smith 
Street  at  the  junction  of  the  so-called  Old 
Road.  Its  exact  number  is  1240.  The  tiny, 
weather-beaten  structure,  painted  a  nonde¬ 
script  yellow,  has  long  been  known  as  the 
“Brigham  Young  House,”  although  his 
definite  connection  with  it  cannot  be  posi¬ 
tively  determined.  Small  as  it  is,  the  struc¬ 
ture  contains  six  rooms,  ranged  in  two 
floors  about  a  massive  center  chimney.  In 
the  basement  is  a  great  brick  oven.  The 
little  porch  and  the  vines  that  clamber 
about  the  eaves  have  been  luxurious  addi¬ 
tions  to  the  stark  bareness  of  the  house  as 
it  was  originally  built.  About  1871,  the 
third  son  of  Mary  Ann  Angell  and  Brig¬ 
ham  Young,  John  Willard  Young,  drove 
out  from  Providence  in  a  hack  to  visit  the 
birthplace  of  his  mother,  which  she  had 
previously  described  to  him  in  detail.  He 
told  some  of  the  curious  neighbors  that  the 
elm  tree  which  leans  protectingly  over  the 
little  house  was  planted  by  his  mother  when 
she  was  a  girl.  Since  that  time  Mormons 
have  visited  the  home  annually,  members 
of  the  faith  coming  every  year  from  Utah 
to  see  the  place  which  for  them  is  in  the 
nature  of  a  shrine. 

Mary  Ann  Angell  was  a  Free  Will  Bap¬ 
tist  before  she  married  Brigham  Young. 
She  had  spent  most  of  her  youth  closely 
studying  the  scriptures  and  had  come  to  the 
decision  that  she  would  never  marry  until 
she  met  a  man  of  God.  Contrary  to  an  old 
belief,  she  did  not  meet  Brigham  Young  in 
Providence  and  run  away  with  him  after 
the  death  of  his  first  wife.  She  and  her 
family  had  gone  to  Kirtland,  Ohio,  to  ob¬ 
tain  closer  contact  with  the  Mormon  doc¬ 
trines,  and  it  was  there,  in  1834,  that  she 
met  Brigham  Young  and  became  his  second 
legal  wife.  He,  at  the  age  of  32,  was  fol¬ 
lowing  his  trade  of  a  painter  and  glazier  in 
addition  to  his  missionary  activities,  and 
she,  two  years  younger,  had  evidently 
found  him  to  be  the  man  of  God  she  sought. 
This  marriage,  it  must  be  remembered, 
took  place  some  eight  years  before  the  doc¬ 
trine  of  polygamy  was  introduced  into  the 
Mormon  creed. 

In  1837,  Brigham  Young  visited  Rhode 
Island  as  a  missionary,  and  it  is  highly 
probable  that  he  may  then  have  stayed  in 
the  Angell  farmhouse  on  Smith  Street.  At 



least,  it  is  not  at  all  improbable  that  he 
should  have  used  the  former  home  of  his 
wife  as  a  headquarters  during  his  travels 
about  New  England. 

In  1842,  Joseph  Smith  began  to  preach 
the  righteousness  of  polygamy,  and  Brig¬ 
ham  Young  was  not  slow  to  follow  his 
leader  in  word  and  action.  Of  course,  this 
new  turn  in  the  doctrines  which  she  had 
ardently  supported  placed  Mary  Ann 
Young  in  a  peculiar  and  rather  embar¬ 
rassing  position.  She  had  been  Brigham 
Young’s  only  wife  for  eight  years,  yet  she 
did  not  stand  in  the  way  of  her  husband’s 
new  beliefs.  In  capitulating  to  her  husband 
in  the  matter  of  the  adoption  of  polygamy, 
she  was  probably  more  influenced  by  her 
profound  respect  for  Mormonism  itself, 
than  by  any  want  of  proper  conjugal  senti¬ 
ment.  She  was  an  unemotional  woman, 
however,  of  Puritan  stock  and  said  to 
resemble  Martha  Washington  in  features. 
Yet,  although  she  followed  the  belief  of 
her  husband,  she  did  not  lose  her  pride,  and 
refused  to  live  with  the  other  wives  which 
he  chose  in  the  succeeding  years.  Only  one 
other  wife,  the  last  taken  by  the  great  Mor¬ 
mon,  had  the  privilege  of  a  house  to  her¬ 
self.  The  others,  twenty-five  in  number, 
lived  in  two  large  homes  built  side  by  side, 
known  as  the  Lion  and  the  Bee  Houses. 
But  Mary  Ann  Young  was  always  known  to 
all  Mormons  up  to  the  time  of  her  death 
as  “Mother  Young.”  She  seemed  to  hold 
the  somewhat  dubious  position  of  “head” 
of  Brigham  Young’s  wives,  but  this  was 
undoubtedly  because  of  her  own  personal¬ 
ity  and  not  solely  because  of  her  legal 
marriage  to  him.  She  bore  him  six  of  his 
56  children. 

The  adoption  of  polygamy  into  the  Mor¬ 
mon  doctrine,  regardess  of  the  ethics  of  the 
policy,  gave  the  enemies  of  the  new  faith 
a  very  vulnerable  place  to  attack.  And  as 
the  Mormons,  under  the  lead  of  “Prophet” 
Smith,  began  to  expand  their  families  and 
take  more  wives,  the  enmity  of  those  out¬ 
side  the  faith  burst  with  a  vengeance.  By 

1844,  Smith  had  been  assassinated.  Brig¬ 
ham  Young  soon  took  his  place  as  leader, 
but  it  was  only  two  years  later  that  the 
Mormons  were  driven  out  of  Ohio  and 
started  their  long  journey  to  the  West.  If 
Mary  Ann  Young  had  any  scruples  about 
polygamy,  she  was  soon  obliged  to  realize 
that  it  was  not  a  theory  but  an  established 
fact.  Her  famous  husband,  and  all  the 
Mormons  who  followed  his  leadership, 
were  taking  wife  after  wife  and  building  up 
huge  families.  She  was  worried  only  about 
her  position  in  after  life,  wondering 
whether  she  or  Miriam  Works  would  be 
queen  of  her  husband’s  family. 

While  the  issue  of  poylgamy  aroused  the 
animosity  of  most  of  the  country  against 
the  Mormons,  resulting  in  their  persecu¬ 
tion,  the  sending  of  troops  against  them, 
and  the  final  passage  of  a  law  forbidding 
polygamy  in  1862,  it  must  never  be  forgot¬ 
ten  that  the  Mormons  led  by  Brigham 
Young  were  a  group  of  the  finest  pioneers 
and  builders  the  West  has  ever  known. 
They  were  hard-working,  thrifty,  and  pro¬ 
gressive  people  and  lovers  of  their  homes 
and  families.  They  laid  a  solid  foundation 
for  later  settlers,  and  kept  the  far  West 
open  during  the  most  turbulent  days  in  the 
history  of  the  country.  The  city  which  they 
built  is  testimonial  enough  of  their  char¬ 
acter  and  ability. 

The  law  against  polygamy  had  little 
effect  for  many  years.  Fifteen  years  after 
Brigham  Young’s  death  it  was  still  in  exist¬ 
ence  among  the  Mormons.  The  great  leader 
died  in  1877,  beloved  and  honored  by  his 
own  people,  and  respected  by  all  others  as 
a  man  of  the  highest  ability  and  statesman¬ 
ship.  His  Rhode  Island  wife,  Mary  Ann 
Young,  came  to  the  funeral  on  the  arm  of 
Amelia  Folsom,  the  last  wife  Brigham 
Young  had  married  and  the  only  other  one 
for  whom  he  had  provided  a  separate  home. 
To  these  two  women  he  willed  the  joint 
ownership  of  Amelia  Folsom’s  mansion, 
and  it  was  there  that  the  Mary  Ann  Angell, 
of  Providence,  passed  her  last  days. 




When  a  man  has  been  dead  for  over 
three  quarters  of  a  century  and  dis¬ 
interested  persons,  who  have  no  direct 
knowledge  of  either  the  man  himself  or  of 
his  times,  can  appraise  him  coolly  and  esti¬ 
mate  the  true  value  and  purport  of  his  life, 
he  will  either  he  dismissed  briefly  as  an 
unimportant  individual  or  he  will  be  recog¬ 
nized  at  last  as  having  been  a  man  of  pro¬ 
phetic  vision,  a  great  personality  which 
lived  in  advance  of  its  time.  There  was  too 
much  emotion  surrounding  the  life  and 
times  of  Thomas  Wilson  Dorr  for  him  to 
have  been  judged  impartially  by  his  contem¬ 
poraries.  He  is  an  especially  fine  example 
of  a  man  who  must  lie  for  many  decades  in 
his  grave  while  waiting  to  be  exonerated  and 
honored  as  he  deserves. 

What  a  confused  affair  the  constitution 
issue  in  Rhode  Island  was!  A  few  men  on 
either  side  saw  the  facts  clearly.  But  it  is 
doubtful  whether  the  bulk  of  adherents  to 
either  party  understood  the  fundamental 
purposes  and  beliefs  of  their  leaders.  In 
addition,  too  many  individuals  were  trying 
to  reconcile  cross  purposes  and  conflicting 
opinions  within  their  own  minds  to  make 
their  actions  anything  else  but  muddled. 
The  result  was  much  as  might  have  been 
expected.  The  people’s  party  of  1841  and 
1842  was  upon  too  insecure  a  footing,  being 
an  infant  organization,  to  allow  for  any 
vacillation  among  its  members.  And  it  was 
its  wavering  which  lost  its  righteous  cause 
and  brought  bitter  humiliation  upon  its  un¬ 
compromising  leader.  There  was  a  good 
deal  of  the  same  vacillation  inherent  among 
the  supporters  of  the  freehold  government, 
but  in  that  instance  it  did  not  matter  as 
much.  The  long  reign  and  the  simple  fact 
that,  after  all,  it  was  the  existing  government 
gave  it  the  necessary  ounces  of  power  which 
carried  it  through  the  crisis.  If  Dorr’s  fol¬ 
lowers  could  have  seen  his  cause  as  we  see 
it  now,  calmly  and  without  excitement,  they 
would  have  stood  by  him  to  a  man,  and  their 
issue  would  have  been  easily  realized. 

Thomas  Wilson  Dorr  was  born  in  Provi¬ 
dence,  November  3,  1805.  He  was  a  son  of 
Sullivan  Dorr,  a  prominent  manufacturer, 

and  Lydia  (Allen)  Dorr.  He  could  trace 
his  ancestry  back  to  Joseph  Dorr,  a  Massa¬ 
chusetts  Bay  settler  of  1660.  His  grand¬ 
father,  Ebenezer  Dorr,  had  been  captured 
with  Paul  Revere  upon  the  latter’s  famous 
ride.  Thomas  Dorr  went  to  Phillips’  Exeter 
Academy  and  thence  to  Harvard,  graduating 
from  the  latter  institution  in  1823  and  carry¬ 
ing  off  second  honors  in  his  class.  After 
that  he  went  to  New  York  and  studied  law 
under  Kent  and  McCoun,  both  recognized 
as  great  equity  judges  and  jurists.  He  made 
considerable  of  a  reputation  for  himself  as 
a  profound  student  of  law,  and  was  shortly 
admitted  to  the  bar  in  New  York.  Kent, 
himself,  recognized  Dorr’s  abilities  and  val¬ 
ued  his  convictions  highly,  and  in  later  edi¬ 
tions  of  his  noted  “Commentaries”  incor¬ 
porated  various  suggestions  and  changes 
which  his  young  disciple  had  made. 

In  about  1830,  Dorr  returned  to  Provi¬ 
dence  to  take  up  the  practice  of  law.  His 
progress  in  this  city  was  slow,  as  is  typical 
with  all  young  lawyers,  but  particularly  so 
in  his  case  inasmuch  as  he  was  generally 
recognized  as  a  student  and  not  a  practi¬ 
tioner  in  the  profession.  In  1833,  he  was 
elected  a  member  of  the  lower  house  of  the 
General  Assembly  from  Providence.  Thus 
was  he  started  upon  his  tempestuous  public 

He  had  been  a  Federalist  by  birth  and  had 
grown  up  in  a  Federalist  environment,  but 
his  principles  quickly  made  of  him  an  ar¬ 
dent  Democrat.  This  was  the  first  thing  to 
throw  him  into  disfavor  among  the  ruling 
class  of  freeholders.  In  1837,  his  career  in 
the  General  Assembly  came  to  an  end  for  he 
had  further  estranged  himself  from  the  rul¬ 
ing  faction  by  bringing  to  an  end  the  “bank 
process”  then  established,  which  provided 
that  a  debtor’s  real  estate  should  be  attached, 
levied  and  sold  on  the  same  day  that  he 
failed  to  meet  a  note,  thus  excluding  the 
claims  of  his  other  creditors  in  favor  of  the 
bank.  But  these  were  small  milestones  along 
this  man’s  checkered  course.  His  sympathy 
with  those  who  were  beginning  to  rise  up 
against  the  existing  government,  which 
called  itself  republican  but  was  nothing 



more  than  an  oligarchy,  threw  him  into 
everlasting  disgrace  with  its  “landed”  ad¬ 

Yet  he  was  not  the  first  to  assume  the  lead¬ 
ership  of  the  suffrage  party  or  espouse  its 
principles.  Rhode  Island’s  General  Assem¬ 
bly  had  passed  an  act  way  back  in  1724 
limiting  the  suffrage  to  landowners  and 
their  oldest  sons.  This  continued  as  a  part 
of  the  charter  after  the  Revolution.  Most  of 
the  other  States,  in  fact  all  except  Connecti¬ 
cut  and  Rhode  Island,  had  drawn  up  consti¬ 
tutions  approved  by  their  people  and  giving 
full  suffrage.  The  two  New  England  States 
believed  that  their  charters  were  as  liberal 
and  as  useful  articles  of  government  as  con¬ 
stitutions  and  did  not  bother  to  change.  But 
the  status  of  the  people  had  been  changing 
with  the  years.  The  growing  industries  in 
Providence,  such  as  cotton  spinning,  were 
creating  a  new  class  of  people,  non-land¬ 
owners  who  made  up  the  bulk  of  the  popu¬ 
lation.  Thus  those  actually  in  power,  ac¬ 
cording  to  the  old  land  act,  were  really  the 
small  minority.  And,  even  in  1797,  some 
saw  the  upheaval  that  lay  ahead.  George  R. 
Burrill,  in  that  year,  made  a  Fourth-of-July 
oration  in  which  he  spoke  of  the  necessity  of 
a  State  constitution.  He  said  that,  unless  a 
change  was  brought  about,  Rhode  Island 
would  display  the  paradox  of  a  “free,  sover¬ 
eign  and  independent  people  desirous  of 
changing  their  form  of  government  without 
the  power  to  do  it.”  He  believed  there  was 
no  remedy  but  in  ignoring  the  General  As¬ 
sembly  completely  and  proceeding  to  form 
a  new  constitution  independently. 

In  1821,  1822,  and  1824,  attempts  were 
made  to  call  a  convention  to  draw  up  a  con¬ 
stitution  but  they  all  failed.  The  land  hold¬ 
ers  were  still  too  powerful.  In  1829,  peti¬ 
tions  for  an  extension  of  the  suffrage  were 
met  with  contempt  by  the  privileged  class  in 
the  General  Assembly.  Five  years  later  a 
convention  to  consider  ways  and  means  of 
establishing  a  constitution  was  held  in  Prov¬ 
idence,  being  attended  by  delegates  from  all 
the  Rhode  Island  towns.  Dorr  was  a  dele¬ 
gate  from  Providence.  When  he  made  his 
report  on  the  assembly,  he  attacked  the  exist¬ 
ing  charter  vigorously,  although  stoutly 
maintaining  his  allegiance  to  the  State  and 
its  founders.  He  believed,  (and  he  was  right 
in  so  doing)  that  at  the  close  of  the  Revolu¬ 

tion  the  charter  was  dissolved  as  an  article 
of  government,  that  the  sovereignty  of  the 
King  of  England  did  not  pass  to  the  Gov¬ 
ernor  and  Assembly  but  rather  to  the  people 
who  had  fought  the  battles  of  the  Revolution 
and  their  descendants,  and  that  the  people 
of  Rhode  Island  had  the  inherent  right  to 
establish  a  constitution  (in  their  original 
capacity) .  His  report  showed  that  all  other 
States,  even  Connecticut,  had  adopted  con¬ 
stitutions.  This  report  showed  Dorr  to  be 
one  of  the  ablest  men  in  the  State,  a  man  to 
be  feared  by  the  landowners. 

What  happened  in  the  swift  years  that 
followed  is  widely  known.  The  General 
Assembly  passed  an  act  in  1834  requesting 
the  freemen  of  the  State  to  vote  for  general 
officers  to  choose  delegates  for  a  constitu¬ 
tional  convention.  But  inasmuch  as  any  ex¬ 
tension  of  the  franchise  would  be  vetoed  by 
this  body,  such  a  step  had  no  importance, 
and  the  convention  amounted  to  nothing. 
The  Rhode  Island  Suffrage  Association  was 
organized  in  1840  to  agitate  for  a  constitu¬ 
tion.  Petitions  kept  coming  in  for  an  en¬ 
largement  of  the  suffrage.  The  General 
Assembly,  in  1841,  proposed  a  re-appor¬ 
tionment  of  delegates  to  its  numbers  on  the 
basis  of  population,  but  this  did  not  allevi¬ 
ate  the  approaching  crisis. 

A  great  parade,  in  April  of  1841,  inaugu¬ 
rated  the  Dorr  movement,  and  many  banners 
carried  by  the  marchers  had  inscriptions 
which  forecast  the  ominous  future.  Affairs 
moved  swiftly  from  then  on,  and  we  find  a 
People’s  Constitution  drawn  up  by  the  Dor- 
rites  in  December,  1841.  A  short  three 
months  later,  the  General  Assembly  author¬ 
ized  a  similar  constitution  and  drew  up  a 
constitution  which  granted  suffrage.  It  was 
defeated  because  many  of  the  landowners 
voted  against  it  and  because  Dorr  had  not 
urged  his  followers  to  vote  for  it  and  they 
were  under  the  impression  that  they  could 
not  do  so.  Had  they  done  so  they  would  have 
come  into  power  and  been  able  to  set  up  a 
new  order  of  government,  and  the  Dorr 
War  would  have  been  avoided.  As  it  was 
the  General  Assembly,  waking  up  to  the 
danger  of  the  moment,  passed  an  act  mak¬ 
ing  the  officers  in  the  Dorr  movement  guilty 
of  treason  and  all  their  meetings  illegal. 
But  the  act  was  not  enforced,  and  the  Dor- 
rites  increased  in  power.  When  the  regular 



elections  came  under  the  charter,  the  two 
governments  were  at  bay,  and  the  conse¬ 
quent  failures  of  the  Dorrites  at  the  arsenal 
and  their  fort  in  Chepachet,  the  collapse  of 
the  whole  movement,  and  Dorr’s  trial  and 
imprisonment  were  soon  over. 

Dorr  was  a  great  benefactor  and  reformer 
of  Rhode  Island.  His  principles  were  abso¬ 
lutely  right,  but  his  failure  to  seize  the  psy¬ 

chological  moments  of  action  and  his  too- 
great  sense  of  logic  caused  his  downfall. 
Though  he  erred  in  judgment  and  seemed  to 
fail  entirely,  dying,  in  1854,  a  broken  man, 
his  firm  stand  for  the  right  had  its  influence 
and  resulted  in  many  of  the  privileges  which 
Rhode  Island  citizens  have  today;  and  he, 
himself,  must  be  listed  high  among  Rhode 
Island’s  honored  great. 


Elijah  Ormsbee’s  invention,  in  1794,  of 
a  steamboat  which  would  actually  run, 
may  have  been  the  cause  of  considerable 
astonishment  among  the  masters  of  the 
many  sloop-rigged  packets,  that  came  to 
anchor  in  Narragansett  Bay,  but  it  certainly 
did  not  cause  them  to  worry.  They  would 
have  laughed  at  the  mere  suggestion  that 
any  vessels  propelled  by  steam  could  ever 
supplant  them  and  their  time-honored 
sailing  ships.  Yet,  the  day  was  fast  ap¬ 
proaching  when  they  would  have  to  take  the 
situation  seriously,  and  see  their  trim  ves¬ 
sels  outdistanced  and  outdated. 

The  opening  date  of  the  era  of  steam¬ 
boats,  was  1817,  an  era  which  has  lasted 
up  to  the  present  day.  In  that  year  the  ugly 
little  steamer,  “Firefly,”  made  her  first  ap¬ 
pearance  in  Rhode  Island  waters  when  she 
steamed  from  New  York  to  Newport  in 
about  twenty-eight  hours.  To  those  accus¬ 
tomed  to  seeing  the  slim  and  graceful  sail¬ 
ing  ships,  this  tiny  vessel  with  awkward 
lines  and  black  smoke  was  a  bitter  disap¬ 
pointment.  Puffing  and  wheezing,  she  con¬ 
tinued  to  Providence,  where  huge  crowds  of 
interested  spectators  were  at  the  dock  to 
catch  a  first  glimpse  of  her.  Among  these 
who  were  not  only  disappointed  in  the  ap¬ 
pearance  of  the  new  invention,  but  also  had 
other  reasons  for  dissatisfaction,  were  the 
captains  of  the  packets.  However,  it  was  a 
month  later,  when  the  “Firefly”  went  down 
the  Bay  to  Newport  to  get  President  Mon¬ 
roe  and  bring  him  to  Providence,  that  their 
active  opposition  began.  A  bitter  rivalry 
arose  between  these  packet-captains  and 
the  officers  of  the  “Firefly,”  the  former 

making  it  their  business  to  stand  upon  the 
wharf  just  prior  to  the  departure  of  the 
“Firefly”  on  her  regular  trips  down  the  Bay 
and  offer  to  carry  all  passengers  to  New¬ 
port  for  a  quarter,  or  for  nothing  at  all  if 
they  could  not  beat  the  time  of  the  “Fire¬ 
fly.”  These  captains  knew  well  that  their 
packets  were  capable  of  beating  the  slow 
little  steamer,  and  after  a  short  while  they 
succeeded  in  driving  the  “Firefly”  from 
this  port. 

This  triumph  was  to  be  short-lived,  how¬ 
ever,  for  by  1821  the  steamboat  had  come 
to  stay.  In  this  year  the  first  steamboat  ex¬ 
cursion  was  made  by  the  Robert  Fulton  and 
steamboats  were  no  longer  an  oddity  on 
the  water  route  between  Providence  and 
New  York.  The  packet  owners  tried  to  in¬ 
troduce  two  bills  into  the  Rhode  Island  As¬ 
sembly,  one  restricting  the  landing  of  pas¬ 
sengers  from  steamboats  on  the  shores  of 
the  State  and  the  other  imposing  a  50c  tax 
on  all  passengers  on  steamboats.  Needless 
to  say,  neither  became  a  law. 

The  early  sound  steamers,  the  “Fulton” 
and  the  “Connecticut,”  made  one  round 
trip  each  week  between  New  York  and 
Providence  until  November,  when  the  “Ful¬ 
ton”  would  be  removed,  the  “Connecticut” 
continuing  until  hindered  by  the  ice. 

During  the  ten  or  twenty  years  immedi¬ 
ately  following  the  action  of  the  packet 
captains,  new  steamers  appeared  regularly. 
In  1825,  the  “Washington”  was  put  into 
service.  She  was  131  feet  long  and  was  the 
first  steamer  to  have  a  pair  of  beam  engines, 
each  independent  of  the  other.  Two  years 
later  the  “Chancellor  Livingston”  was 
taken  off  the  Albany-New  York  route  and 



placed  on  the  Providence  run  as  an  oppo¬ 
sition  boat  to  those  who  had  begun  to  be¬ 
come  successful.  In  1828,  the  “Benjamin 
Franklin”  was  brought  to  Rhode  Island 
waters  by  the  rivals  of  the  “Chancellor 
Livingston.”  Between  these  two  vessels  oc¬ 
curred  the  famous  race  to  New  York,  which 
the  “Benjamin  Franklin”  won.  There  was 
very  little  difference  in  speed  between  the 
two,  however,  and  they  were  as  fine 
steamers  as  were  in  existence  at  that  time. 

In  1831,  the  “Chancellor  Livingston” 
ran  down  and  sunk  the  “Washington”  dur¬ 
ing  a  fog  in  the  sound.  To  replace  her,  the 
“Boston”  was  built  under  the  supervision 
of  Captain  Comstock.  She  was  the  first 
steamer  to  be  constructed  without  masts 
and  sails.  As  a  sister  ship  a  new  boat 
called  the  “Providence”  was  built  by  the 
Providence  Steamboat  Company.  With 
the  “Boston”  she  went  into  service  on  one 
of  the  lines  out  of  Providence,  while  the 
“President”  and  the  “Benjamin  Franklin” 
formed  the  mainstays  of  the  opposition 
line.  The  “Connecticut”  and  the  “Chan¬ 
cellor  Livingston”  had  both  been  assigned 
to  other  lines  outside  Rhode  Island. 

With  the  coming  of  the  year  1832,  pros¬ 
pects  were  bright  indeed  for  all  the  steam¬ 
boat  lines.  They  had  greatly  influenced  the 
stage  coach  routes  already  in  existence  and 
made  possible  the  establishment  of  more. 
The  popular  way  to  travel  to  New  York  was 
via  Providence,  using  the  coaches  and  the 
Providence  steamboats.  However,  in  1832, 
an  epidemic  of  cholera  in  New  York  made 
a  quarantine  necessary  on  all  shipping, 
and  the  steamboats  were  forced  to  suspend 
their  activities  for  the  greater  part  of  the 

In  1835,  Cornelius  Vanderbilt  construc¬ 
ted  the  steamboat,  “Lexington”  and  began 
to  take  a  decided  interest  in  the  navigation 
in  Narragansett  Bay.  The  following  year, 
Captain  Comstock  was  the  builder  of  the 
“Massachusetts”  which  his  brother  com¬ 
manded.  She  was  one  of  the  first  boats  of 
the  famous  Transportation  Company, 
founded  by  Vanderbilt,  and  made  the  trip 
to  New  York  in  thirteen  hours.  Then  be¬ 
gan  the  worst  kind  of  competition  between 
rival  steamship  companies.  Rates  were 
slashed  without  discrimination  in  the  mad 
effort  to  monopolize  all  the  business.  This 
business  war  extended  to  all  the  subsidiaries 

of  the  steamboat  lines.  The  Stonington 
Railroad,  opened  in  1837,  was  the  cause  of 
the  opening  of  the  Stonington  steamboat 
lines  to  New  York.  The  railroad  came  up 
to  the  west  side  of  the  Bay  about  opposite 
Fox  Point,  where  a  small  ferry  carried  the 
passengers  across  to  the  Boston  trains. 

In  1851,  a  line  of  freighters  was  estab¬ 
lished.  These  steamboats  were  the  first  to 
get  away  from  the  use  of  paddle-wheels, 
being  equipped  with  single  screw  propel- 
lors.  While  this  new  company  did  abso¬ 
lutely  no  business  for  many  months,  gradu¬ 
ally  a  trade  was  developed  which  grew  to 
tremendous  proportions  and  necessitated 
the  building  of  even  more  ships.  In  the 
winter  of  1856-1857,  the  Sound  was  frozen 
solid  and  steamboats  were  unable  to  reach 
Newport.  The  vessels  of  the  commercial 
line  finally  literally  sawed  a  channel 
through  the  Sound  to  New  York. 

But  what  of  the  many  little  steamboats 
which  were  sailing  up  and  down  the  Bay? 
There  were  many  of  them,  from  the  time 
of  the  “Firefly”  on.  One  of  the  first  built, 
by  a  man  named  Wadsworth,  was  named 
after  him.  It  had  a  special  type  of  safety 
boiler  somewhat  similar  to  a  later  principle 
developed  by  the  Herreshoff  Company  of 
Bristol.  Following,  in  the  order  named, 
were  the  steamers  “Rushlight,”  “Balloon,” 
and  “Iolas.”  These  made  regular  trips  be¬ 
tween  Providence  and  Newport,  with  side- 
stops  at  Warren  and  Bristol,  carrying  pas¬ 
sengers  principally  on  excursions  which 
lasted  through  afternoons  and  evenings.  In 
the  1850’s,  the  Bay  was  a  hubbub  of  navi¬ 
gation.  Steamboats  were  coming  and  going 
between  Providence  and  New  York,  and  the 
presence  of  the  many  little  excursion  boats 
from  Providence  and  Fall  River  only  added 
to  the  confusion.  Nor  was  the  Bay  exactly 
the  best  type  of  a  port.  Much  delay  was 
caused  the  steamboats  because  of  the  shoal 
in  the  channel  below  Fox  Point  which  had 
only  4%  feet  of  water  at  low  tide. 

These,  then,  were  the  days  of  the  early 
steamboats  in  Narragansett  Bay.  There  was 
a  great  spirit  of  joviality  on  board  those 
pioneer  vessels.  After  the  evening  meal 
the  passengers  would  gather  on  the  decks 
and  join  in  song  in  a  complete  democracy 
of  spirit.  There  would  be  the  flagons  and  de¬ 
canters  upon  the  tables  and  the  true  spirit 
of  good  comradeship  existed.  The  round 



trip  to  New  York  at  first  cost  $10,  and 
was  considered  a  great  event  in  the  life  of 
anyone  lucky  enough  to  take  it. 

One  of  the  early  excursions  of  the  steamer 
“Connecticut,”  advertised  as  a  fishing  trip 
for  ladies  and  gentlemen  to  Block  Island, 
was  disastrous  in  some  ways,  yet  was  not 
entirely  without  humorous  aspects.  To 

quote  the  Providence  Journal  of  1877 : 

.  .  As  the  boat  started  in  haste  back  to 
Newport  it  was  a  touching  sight  to  see  the 
codfish  swimming  along  beside  the  boat, 
occasionally  looking  up  with  a  smile  at  the 
seasick  party  and  then  diving  down  a  mile 
or  two  into  the  deep  in  a  tumult  of  deliri¬ 
ous  joy.” 


Three-score  and  five  years  ago,  on  an 
April  night,  the  vast  majority  of  people 
in  the  Northern  States  went  to  bed  with 
thankful  and  relieved  hearts.  For,  on  April 
9th,  Lee  had  surrendered  to  Grant  at  Ap¬ 
pomattox.  President  Lincoln,  on  the  fol¬ 
lowing  day,  had  returned  to  Washington 
from  the  seat  of  War,  and  Washington  had 
gone  mad  with  j  oy  at  the  now  certain  end  of 
the  long  strife.  This  joy  had  spread,  of 
course,  all  over  the  loyal  States,  for  now  the 
cruel  war  was  over;  the  boys  in  blue  would 
soon  be  coming  home  hoping  that  years  of 
peace  would  follow  the  years  of  conflict. 

There  had  been  happy  hearts  in  the  White 
House  on  that  April  day,  and  President  Lin¬ 
coln  had  permitted  himself  some  terribly 
needed  relaxation.  He  had  driven  out  with 
Mrs.  Lincoln  that  afternoon,  and,  as  they 
rode,  husband  and  wife  had  planned  hap¬ 
pily  for  the  coming  years  when  the  great 
burdens  of  the  nation  should  have  been 
taken  from  his  shoulders. 

He  had  even  consented  to  add  to  the  re¬ 
laxation  of  the  drive  an  evening  at  the  the¬ 
atre,  for  he  had  ever  dearly  loved  a  good 
play  and  could  this  night  see  his  way  clear 
to  enj  oy  one  with  a  contented  mind. 

Here,  in  the  city  of  Providence  that  night, 
the  citizens  who  had  lain  down  with  thank¬ 
ful  and  relieved  hearts  were  rudely  awak¬ 
ened  some  time  after  midnight  by  a  wild 
alarum  of  pealing  bells.  Their  long  and  in¬ 
sistent  clangor  brought  weary  men,  perhaps 
grumbling,  out  of  their  warm  beds.  “What 
could  be  the  cause  of  the  alarm?  Was  not 
the  war  over  at  last?  Was  a  man  never  again 
to  enjoy  a  well-earned  night’s  rest?”  One 
old  man,  a  child  in  the  cradle  that  night, 
remembers  well  hearing  his  parents  tell  how 

his  father  roused  and  dressed  and  hastened 
to  the  centre  of  the  city  to  ascertain  the  cause 
of  the  clamor.  Soon  he  returned  with  white 
face  to  tell  his  family  the  news.  He  threw 
open  the  outside  door  and,  standing  on  the 
threshold,  announced  in  solemn  voice :  “The 
President  of  the  United  States  has  been  shot 
by  an  assassin !  ” 

Next  morning  came  the  news  of  the  Pres¬ 
ident’s  death,  and  the  wildest  excitement 
prevailed.  There  was  much  uncertainty  at 
first.  Men  did  not  know  how  widespread 
might  be  the  plot  to  destroy  the  heads  of  the 
Nation.  Perhaps  the  comforting  words  had 
not  yet  reached  them:  “God  reigns,  and  the 
Government  at  Washington  still  lives” 

Mr.  Lincoln  was  shot  on  April  14th, 
which  was  Good  Friday.  When  the  news  of 
his  death  was  received  on  the  following  day, 
the  bells  of  Providence  tolled  for  an  hour, 
and  minute-guns  were  fired  by  the  Marine 
Artillery.  This  was  repeated  in  the  evening, 
when  the  bells  tolled  again  and  the  minute- 
guns  sounded  from  5.30  to  6.30  o’clock. 

The  students  at  Brown  assembled  that 
morning  at  10.30  o’clock  in  Manning  Hall, 
and  Professors  Diman,  Harkness  and  Dunn 
addressed  them. 

Committees  were  appointed  from  the 
classes  to  work  with  the  Faculty  in  drafting 
resolutions  of  sympathy  and  the  gathering 
adjourned  singing:  “Oh  God,  Our  Help  in 
Ages  Past.” 

At  eight  o’clock  on  Saturday  evening  a 
procession  of  citizens,  numbering  probably 
1500  people,  formed  on  Westminster  Street 
near  the  bridge  and  marched,  under  the  di¬ 
rection  of  Ex-Governor  Hoppin,  in  a  drench¬ 
ing  rain  and  to  the  mournful  music  of  the 
American  Brass  Band  to  the  home  of  Ex- 
President  Way  land,  who  addressed  them. 



The  Providence  Journal  of  April  17, 
1865,  printed  the  following  editorial : 

“Such  scenes  were  never  before  witnessed  in  this 
City  as  we  beheld  on  Saturday.  There  was  lamen¬ 
tation  in  every  household  as  tho  death  had  crossed 
the  threshold.  The  men  of  business  forgot  their 
buying  and  selling,  and  shed  tears  of  grief  as  they 
met  each  other  on  the  public  streets.  We  never  saw 
a  community  so  weighed  down  with  sorrow  .  .  . 
Long  before  evening  nearly  every  house  and  store 
and  public  building  bore  testimony  to  the  universal 
sadness.  Yesterday,  although  it  was  the  glad  Easter 
Day,  the  churches  were  dressed  in  mourning  and 
some  of  the  clergy  and  almost  every  worshiper 
wore  badges  of  some  kind,  expressing  grief  .  .  . 

“President  Lincoln,  at  this  proud  hour  of  his 
triumph  and  glory,  when  it  seemed  that  he  was 
about  to  enjoy  in  peace  and  quietness  the  fruits  of 
his  four  years’  arduous  toil,  has  perished  by  the 
hand  of  a  miserable  miscreant.  Too  early,  alas! 
for  us  he  has  fallen,  but  not  too  early  for  him.  He 
will  stand  in  all  history  as  a  canonized  martyr  to 
the  Cause  of  Liberty  and  Human  Right!” 

With  words  like  these  in  our  ears  it  is 
hard  for  us,  who  have  seldom  heard  the 
name  of  Lincoln  mentioned  save  with  rever¬ 
ence,  to  realize  what  he  had  in  life  to  bear. 

Mrs.  Maud  Howe  Elliott  has  told  us  that 
she  once  fled  in  burning  indignation  to  her 
mother,  saying:  “Mother,  did  you  ever,  in 
all  your  life,  know  of  anyone  so  maligned  as 
is  our  friend  Mr.  Roosevelt?” 

The  aged  Julia  Ward  Howe  deliberately 
withheld  her  answer  and  took  a  moment  to 
look  back  down  the  years  of  her  long  life. 
Then  her  answer  came  with  decision.  “Yes, 
I  knew  one.”  “Who  was  he,  mother?  Who 
could  it  have  been?” 

And  Julia  Ward  Howe  replied  with  sol¬ 
emn  emphasis:  “Abraham  Lincoln!” 

And  let  us  add  the  testimony  of  another 
of  America’s  greatest,  the  word  of  the  late 
Edward  Everett  Hale.  Dr.  Hale  wrote: 
“With  the  news  of  the  murder  of  Lincoln, 
there  came  to  New  York  every  other  terrible 
message.  The  office  of  the  New  York 
Tribune ,  of  course,  received  echoes  from  all 
the  despatches  which  showed  the  alarm  at 
Washington.  There  were  orders  for  the  ar¬ 
rest  of  this  man,  there  were  suspicions  of  the 
loyalty  of  that  man.  No  one  knew  what  the 
rumors  might  bring. 

“In  the  midst  of  the  anxieties  of  such 
hours,  to  Mr.  Sidney  Howard  Gay,  the  acting 
editor  of  that  paper  there,  entered  the  fore¬ 
man  of  the  type-setting  room.  He  brought 
with  him  the  proof  of  Mr.  Greeley’s  leading 
article,  as  he  had  left  it  before  leaving  the 

city  for  the  day.  It  was  a  brutal,  bitter,  sar¬ 
castic,  personal  attack  on  President  Lincoln, 
the  man  who,  when  Gay  read  the  article,  lay 
dying  in  Washington. 

“Gay  read  the  article  and  asked  the  fore¬ 
man  if  he  had  any  private  place  where  he 
could  lock  up  the  type  to  which  no  one  but 
himself  had  access.  The  foreman  said  he 
had.  Gay  bade  him  tie  up  the  type,  lock  the 
galley  with  this  article  in  his  cupboard,  and 
tell  no  one  what  he  had  told  him.  Of  course 
no  such  article  appeared  in  the  Tribune 
next  morning. 

“But  when  Gay  arrived  on  the  next  day  at 
the  office,  he  was  met  with  the  news  that  ‘the 
old  man’  wanted  him,  with  the  intimation 
that  ‘the  old  man’  was  very  angry. 

“Gay  waited  upon  Greeley.  ‘Are  you 
there,  Mr.  Gay?  I  have  been  looking  for 
you.  They  tell  me  that  you  ordered  my 
leader  out  of  this  morning’s  paper.  Is  this 
your  paper  or  mine?  I  should  like  to  know 
if  I  cannot  print  what  I  please  in  my  own 
paper.’  This  in  great  rage. 

“  ‘The  paper  is  yours,  Mr.  Greeley.  The 
article  is  in  type  upstairs  and  you  can  use  it 
when  you  choose.  Only  this,  Mr.  Greeley,  I 
know  New  York,  and  I  hope  and  I  believe 
before  God,  that  there  is  so  much  virtue  in 
New  York  that  if  I  had  let  that  article  go 
into  this  morning’s  paper,  there  would  not 
be  one  brick  left  upon  another  in  the 
Tribune  office  now.  Certainly  I  should  be 
sorry  if  there  were.’  Mr.  Greeley  was  cowed. 
He  said  not  a  word,  nor  ever  alluded  to  the 
subject  again.” 

Before  the  end  of  that  tragic  April,  Booth 
had  been  captured  and  had  died  from  a  bul¬ 
let  wound.  In  the  brief  interval  between  Mr. 
Lincoln’s  death  and  the  assassin’s  apprehen¬ 
sion  it  is  said  that  the  latter  had  access  to 
newspapers  and  was  astounded  to  find  that 
instead  of  acclaims  for  his  deed  from  the 
South,  the  South  joined  the  North  in  a  feel¬ 
ing  of  horror  at  his  crime.  Now,  more  than 
a  half-century  after  his  death,  the  probable 
concensus  of  opinion  is  that  Booth  was  not 
a  fiend.  He  was  a  fanatic.  After  his  death 
his  diary  was  taken  from  his  pocket  and  in 
it  was  found  written :  “I  am  sure  there  is  no 
pardon  in  Heaven  for  me,  since  man  con¬ 
demns  me  so.”  One  who  knew  him  well  has 
written,  “.  .  .  he  was  no  common  assassin. 
Some  overpowering  force  of  evil  must  have 
been  at  work  within  his  frenzied  brain. 



Amid  his  associates  and  with  those  who 
knew  him  well,  he  was  loved  for  his  kindly 
nature,  his  generosities,  and  the  qualities  of 
a  refined  gentleman.” 

After  Booth’s  miserable  ending  at  least 
nine  other  persons  implicated  in  the  plot 
were  indicted.  Of  these,  four  were  executed 
on  July  7,  1865,  three  were  sentenced  to 
hard  labor  for  life,  one  to  hard  labor  for  six 
years.  The  ninth  person  escaped  and  fled 
across  the  ocean  and  we  find  no  record  at 
hand  to  tell  if  he  was  ever  apprehended 
and  punished. 

At  the  close  of  the  Civil  War,  Francis 
Wilson,  in  his  “Life  of  John  Wilkes  Booth,” 
says  of  Lincoln :  “He  had  labored  amid  dis¬ 
trust,  toleration  and  contempt  against  al¬ 
most  irresistible  opposition  from  within  and 
without.  He  now  stood  revealed  to  the 
world  as  the  most  gentle,  most  magnani¬ 
mous,  most  Christ-like  ruler  of  all  time.” 

But,  in  closing  these  notes  of  his  death 
what  words  could  be  more  fitting  than  the 
words  of  Stanton  at  the  moment  of  Lincoln’s 
passing?  Secretary  Stanton  said: 



Though  Rhode  Island,  up  through  the 
middle  of  the  19th  century,  was  almost 
predominantly  a  maritime  state,  history  and 
historians  have  been  more  prone  to  elabor¬ 
ate  upon  the  achievements  of  the  stalwart 
men  who  sailed  and  commanded  her  ships 
than  upon  those  who  built  them.  Yet  there 
are  two  shipbuilding  firms,  one  whose  star 
has  set  but  another  whose  star  is  still  in  its 
zenith,  whose  names  should  never  be  omitted 
from  the  annals  of  Rhode  Island,  and  even 
national,  history. 

The  greatest  Rhode  Island  shipbuilding 
firm  of  the  past,  and  one  which  was  among 
the  most  important  in  all  the  colonies,  was 
Brown  &  Ives  of  Providence.  It  was  an  out¬ 
growth  of  the  shipbuilding  and  commercial 
house  begun  back  in  the  1720’s  by  James 
and  Obadiah  Brown  and  carried  on  by  the 
four  Brown  brothers,  Nicholas,  Joseph, 
John,  and  Moses.  Joseph  Brown  later  with¬ 
drew  to  pursue  philosophical  studies,  and 
John  Brown  also  left  the  firm  to  establish 
his  own  shipbuilding  and  merchant  com¬ 
pany.  The  latter  soon  took  as  a  partner 
Thomas  Poynton  Ives,  who  was  also  the 
first  president  of  the  Providence  Institution 
for  Savings,  and  thus  the  name  Brown  & 
Ives  came  into  existence.  For  many  years 
this  great  firm  built  ships  that  carried  goods 
to  all  parts  of  the  world,  and  established 
the  names  of  Rhode  Island  and  the  Provi¬ 
dence  in  distant  foreign  ports. 

The  other  Rhode  Island  boatbuilding 
company,  which  we  have  mentioned,  is  the 
Herreshoff  Manufacturing  Company  of 

Bristol,  and  it  is  of  this  company  that  we 
shall  speak  at  length.  Little  has  been  writ¬ 
ten  about  the  Herreshoffs,  those  men  who 
have  given  Rhode  Island  the  lead  in  yacht 
design  and  perfection.  As  a  family  they 
have  been  characteristically  reticent,  pre¬ 
ferring  to  let  their  proud  and  graceful 
yachts  be  their  proxies  in  receiving  all 
acclaim.  But  there  is  an  unusual  tale  of  the 
development  of  their  genius  that  should  not 
be  left  to  linger  longer  in  obscurity. 

Charles  Frederick  Herreshoff,  the  founder 
of  the  family  in  America,  came  to  Rhode 
Island  in  1790  from  his  native  land,  Ger¬ 
many.  Inasmuch  as  “Herr”  in  German  is 
the  same  as  our  common  title  “Mr.”  it  is 
very  probable  that  at  one  time  the  surname 
of  the  family  was  either  Shoff  or  Eshoff 
and  that  American  colloquialism  was  long 
ago  responsible  for  the  name  as  it  is  now 
known.  This  man  was  an  engineer  by  pro¬ 
fession  but  had  the  additional  accomplish¬ 
ments  of  being  both  an  excellent  linguist 
and  a  talented  musician.  Because  of  his 
versatile  ability  he  was  invited  to  the  home 
of  John  Brown  almost  immediately  upon 
his  arrival  in  the  colony,  beginning  a 
friendship  with  the  famous  Rhode  Islander 
that  resulted  not  only  in  the  entrance  of 
the  young  German  into  the  firm  of  Brown 
&  Ives  but  also  in  his  marriage  (after  an 
eleven  year  courtship)  to  John  Brown’s 
daughter,  Sarah. 

The  son  of  this  union,  named  for  the 
father,  was  born  in  1809,  and  in  the  course 
of  time  married  Julia  Ann  Lewis,  the 



daughter  of  a  Boston  sea  captain  who  then 
held  the  record  for  ocean  crossing  in  a 
sailing  vessel.  Thus,  the  nine  children  of 
Charles  Frederick  Herreshoff,  Jr.,  and  his 
wife  Julia  Ann  were  born  with  a  strong 
percentage  of  maritime  blood  in  their  veins. 
And  it  was  this  generation  of  Herreshoffs 
that  was  destined  to  revolutionize  all  yacht 
designing  and  building  and  give  to  the 
world  vessels  whose  like  had  never  before 
been  seen,  among  them  the  “Vigilant”  and 
the  rest  of  that  long  line  of  successful  de¬ 
fenders  of  the  America’s  Cup. 

The  story  of  the  Herreshoff  Company 
must  start  with  John  Brown  Herreshoff.  At 
the  time  of  his  birth  in  1841,  the  Herres¬ 
hoffs  were  living  at  Point  Pleasant.  He 
showed  a  great  deal  of  energy  and  ambition 
for  a  boy,  having  his  own  rope  walk,  work¬ 
shop,  and  foot  lathe.  It  was  natural  that 
his  dominant  interest  should  have  been  in 
boats.  It  was  in  his  blood,  and  in  addition 
it  was  stimulated  by  the  activities  of  his 
father,  who  had  considerable  of  a  reputa¬ 
tion  as  an  amateur  boat  builder.  At  the  age 
of  fourteen  John  B.  was  at  work  on  his  first 
boat,  a  little  craft  which  he  was  building 
for  his  own  use,  when  an  accident  totally 
deprived  him  of  his  eyesight. 

Such  a  fateful  handicap  would  have  dis¬ 
couraged  many  a  more  mature  individual, 
hut  the  boy  only  passed  through  a  brief 
period  of  despondency  before  taking  hold 
on  things  once  more  and  setting  out  to  fin¬ 
ish  his  boat.  Of  course  his  father  and  other 
brothers  helped  him  a  good  deal,  but  it  is 
remarkable  how  quickly  he  learned  to  man¬ 
age  without  eyesight  and  to  perform  much 
of  the  work  himself.  Soon  he  was  making 
fresh  plans  and  continuing  with  his  ambi¬ 
tions  just  as  though  nothing  had  happened. 

About  this  time  the  Herreshoffs  moved 
across  the  bay  to  Bristol,  and  John  B.  had 
greater  opportunities  to  continue  with  his 
boat-building  and  mechanical  work.  He 
constructed  a  new  and  longer  rope  walk, 
fitted  up  a  larger  workshop  in  a  room  ad¬ 
joining  his  father’s  house,  and  very  shortly 
took  over  another  large  room  for  boat 
building.  With  the  increased  facilities  of 
four  lathes,  one  power-driven,  he  set  about 
building  several  craft,  but  his  first  triumph 
came  when  he  was  eighteen.  At  that  age  he 
built  the  catboat  “Sprite”  which  turned  out 
to  be  the  fastest  boat  on  the  Bay.  Not  sat¬ 

isfied  with  this  achievement,  he  constructed 
a  larger  craft,  26  feet  long,  which  he  named 
the  “Kelpie.”  This  vessel  was  directly 
responsible  for  the  founding  of  the  Herre¬ 
shoff  Manufacturing  Company,  for  after 
having  had  a  race  with  Thomas  Clapham 
and  beaten  him,  John  B.  received  from  this 
famous  yachtsman  an  order  for  a  new  yacht 
to  be  built  along  the  lines  of  the  victorious 
“Kelpie.”  With  the  building  of  this  yacht 
in  1863,  there  began  the  industry  which  has 
since  attained  such  great  fame. 

Bristol  was  a  logical  place  for  an  in¬ 
dustry  of  this  sort  to  have  its  home.  From 
Bristol  had  come  many  of  the  noted  old 
time  mariners  who  made  history  with  their 
daring  voyages,  among  whom  were  Simeon 
Potter,  “Nor’west  John”  DeWolf,  John 
Willard  Russell,  Mark  Anthony  DeWolf, 
and  Benjamin  Churchill.  And  Bristol  had 
been  a  ship-building  town  as  well.  Many 
of  the  square-riggers,  schooners,  sloops, 
packets,  and  whalers  which  sailed  out  of 
Narragansett  Bay  were  launched  from  its 

The  commission  of  Thomas  Clapham 
was  not  the  only  one  which  John  B.  had  to 
fulfill,  and  he  secured  the  “Old  Tannery” 
as  a  shop  and  hired  enough  men  to  start  his 
industry.  In  his  first  year  of  work  he 
launched  not  only  a  new  “Qui  Vive”  for 
Clapham  but  eight  other  boats  as  well.  By 
1865  he  took  as  partner,  Dexter  S.  Stone 
and  changed  the  name  of  his  young  com¬ 
pany  to  Herreshoff  and  Stone.  But  the  name 
was  changed  back  again  when  Mr.  Stone 
withdrew  two  years  later. 

Lumber  was  hard  to  procure  in  those 
days,  and  John  B.  decided  to  have  a  saw¬ 
mill  of  his  own  and  cut  his  own  lumber 
as  he  needed  it.  For  this  purpose  he  bought 
the  old  building  of  the  Burnside  Rifle  Com¬ 
pany,  located  at  100  yards  from  his  boat- 
shop,  and  fitted  it  with  power  planers  and 
saws.  The  second  floor  of  this  building  he 
converted  into  a  shop  for  the  building  of 
small  open  boats,  but  discarded  this  enter¬ 
prise  very  soon  after  he  had  started  it. 

By  1866  John  B.  had  settled  down  to  the 
business  of  building  larger  yachts  and 
schooners.  These  were  all  sailing  vessels 
up  to  1868,  but  in  that  year  he  constructed 
his  first  steamer,  the  “Annie  Morse.”  Two 
years  later  he  built  the  “Seven  Brothers” 
for  the  Church  brothers  of  Tiverton,  and  it 



was  this  vessel  which  was  the  pioneer  fish¬ 
ing  steamer  on  the  Atlantic  Coast.  For 
these  two  vessels  the  machinery  had  been 
bought,  but  for  the  next,  the  steam  launch 
“Anemone”  the  plans  and  designs  were 
made  by  Nathaniel  Greene  Herreshoff  who 
was  then  employed  as  a  draftsman  for  the 
Corliss  Steam  Engine  Company.  Taking  his 
brother’s  plans,  John  B.  then  built  the 
engines  in  his  own  shop. 

During  the  next  few  years  the  business 
turned  almost  entirely  to  the  building  of 
steam  craft  and  their  subsidiary  machin¬ 
ery.  In  1874,  another  Herreshoff  brother, 
James  B.,  invented  a  new  sort  of  tubular 
boiler  which  proved  successful  in  all  ex¬ 
periments.  Four  years  later  the  “Estelle,” 
a  gunboat,  was  built,  creating  no  end  of 
excitement  in  Bristol  for  it  turned  out  that 
Cuban  insurgents  were  her  buyers  and  the 
Federal  Government  immediately  seized 
her  after  her  first  trial  run. 

In  the  same  year,  1878,  Nathaniel  Greene 
Herreshoff  left  the  Corliss  Steam  Engine 
Company  and  joined  his  fortunes  with  those 
of  John  B.  Then  the  business  truly  pro¬ 
gressed.  Both  men  were  geniuses  in  their 
line.  Occasionally  Nathaniel  would  build 
a  sailing  vessel  for  his  own  diversion,  but 
during  the  early  eighties  the  company  con¬ 
tinued  work  on  steam  vessels,  making  many 
important  experiments  with  engines  and 
boilers  that  were  of  inestimable  value  to 
the  maritime  world. 

New  additions  had  to  be  made  to  the  ex¬ 
isting  shops,  special  foundries  for  building 
boilers  and  machinery  and  larger  shops  for 
constructing  the  hulls  themselves.  The  “Old 
Tannery”  had  to  give  way  to  a  newer  struc¬ 
ture,  and  the  whole  aspect  of  the  plant 
changed.  When  there  were  contracts  to  fill 
in  the  nineties  for  the  U.  S.  Navy,  which 
included  the  building  of  several  torpedo 
boats,  even  more  room  was  needed.  It  was 
impossible  to  stop  work  then  going  on  in 
order  to  make  alterations  in  the  plant  as  it 
stood,  so  a  new  building  was  constructed 
right  over  and  around  the  old  Burnside 
Rifle  building,  involving  the  very  minimum 
of  delay. 

In  1898  and  1890  a  sail  loft  and  a  new 
foundry  for  iron,  brass,  and  lead  castings 
were  added.  And  in  the  latter  year  there 
was  a  return  to  the  building  of  sailing 
yachts  when  the  Herreshoff s  were  commis¬ 

sioned  to  build  two  yawls  for  Commodore 
E.  D.  Morgan.  Soon  the  “Gloriana”  was 
built  for  Commodore  Morgan  from  new  de¬ 
signs  of  N.  G.  Herreshoff  and  proved  over¬ 
whelmingly  successful  as  a  racing  sloop 

In  1891  Nathaniel  conceived  and  built 
the  first  yacht  with  a  metal  plate  keel  and 
heavy  lead  bulb,  beginning  an  era  of  fin- 
keel  yachts.  Other  orders  for  large  yachts 
began  to  come  in  during  the  following  year, 
and  then,  during  the  winter  of  1892-93,  the 
Herreshoff  Company  went  to  work  on  two 
trial  sloops  for  the  international  races  with 
Great  Britain  for  the  America’s  Cup.  Both 
sloops,  the  “Colonia”  and  the  “Vigilant,” 
were  completed  that  winter  and  in  the 
spring  of  ’93  were  ready  for  the  water.  In 
the  trials  the  “Vigilant”  proved  superior 
to  her  sister  sloop  and  was  entered  in  the 
international  race  which  she  won  easily, 
defending  the  America’s  Cup  successfully. 

She  was  the  first  of  a  line  of  victorious 
cup  defender  yachts  to  be  built  by  the 
Herreshoffs,  a  line  whose  unvarying  suc¬ 
cess  has  carried  the  name  of  this  Bristol 
boatbuilding  company  all  over  the  world. 
In  two  years  the  second  one  was  designed 
and  built.  She  was  the  “Defender,”  a  rac¬ 
ing  sloop  of  90  foot  water  line  with  many 
new  novelties  in  both  hull  design  and 
rigging.  Four  years  later  the  “Columbia” 
was  launched  and  was  victorious  in  the  in¬ 
ternational  races  of  both  1899  and  1901. 
The  “Reliance”  followed  in  1903,  and  then 
there  was  a  long  interval  before  the  “Reso¬ 
lute”  was  sailed  to  victory  in  1920.  She 
had  been  launched  about  four  years  earlier, 
but  the  World  War  caused  a  postponement 
of  all  races.  Last  of  all,  and  still  fresh  in 
the  memories  of  all  Rhode  Islanders,  is  the 
victory  of  the  “Enterprise,”  built  in  1930 
and  the  winner  of  four  out  of  seven  races 
off  Newport  with  Sir  Thomas  Lipton’s 
“Shamrock  V.” 

These  were  the  leading  boats  turned  out 
by  this  Rhode  Island  organization,  but 
from  1900  on  the  Herreshoffs  were  busier 
than  ever  before.  Into  Bristol  harbor  they 
launched  scores  of  vessels,  ranging  in  size 
from  small  sailing  craft  to  large  steam 
yachts.  And  in  all  this  they  have  main¬ 
tained  all  the  old  traditions  of  the  famous 
Rhode  Island  seaport  .  .  .  traditions  of  fine 
sailing  ships,  built  and  sailed  on  every  sea 
and  into  every  port. 



John  Brown  Herreshoff,  the  blind 

I  founder  and  president  of  the  company  died 
in  1915,  and  Nathaniel  carried  on  the  work 

(alone.  Then  for  a  number  of  years  a  syndi¬ 
cate  took  over  the  business,  until  it  was 
finally  sold  to  a  group  of  nationally  promi¬ 
nent  yachtsmen  headed  by  Mr.  R.  F.  Haf- 
fenreffer  who  now  controls  the  destinies  of 
the  company. 

Such,  then,  is  the  story  of  this  great  Rhode 
Island  boat-building  company,  begun  back 

in  1863  and  still  continuing  to  turn  out 
scores  of  superb  sailing  and  power  craft 
every  year.  “Ship-shape  and  Bristol  fash¬ 
ion”  was  high  praise  in  the  maritime  world 
during  the  days  when  men  like  Simeon  Pot¬ 
ter  and  “Nor’west  John”  sailed  square- 
riggers  out  of  Bristol.  The  phrase  might 
well  be  revived  and  used  in  high  approba¬ 
tion  of  the  beautiful  new  successors  of  the 
old  time  sailing  craft  .  .  .  the  yachts  built 
by  Herreshoff  in  Rhode  Island.